Tuesday, April 25, 2000

Head counters take duty as census foot soldiers

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        UNION TOWNSHIP — Thousands of census workers across the nation went to class Monday as they prepared for the second phase, which begins later this week, of counting U.S. residents.

        Local U.S. Census Bureau officials are training enumerators who, beginning later this week, will hit the streets to compile information from residents who did not mail in their census forms.

        At the Butler County office in Union Township, part-time workers scramble to ease the complicated task of coordinating the more than 600 enumerators who will fan out into Butler, Warren, Clermont and Preble counties Thursday to count and question residents.

        “Staffing up for this is like staffing up for an army going to battle,” said Mike Frilling, assistant manager for field operations for the Butler County census office.

        The hectic training and preparation is being repeated in census offices across the Tristate. Cincinnati and Hamilton County residents can expect to be greeted by a census enumerator at their door from Thursday until Ju ly 7.

        Northern Kentucky census officials said an estimated 1,000 enumerators probably will begin going door-to-door on Saturday.

        The temporary census workers, who will be identifiable by a U.S. Department of Commerce ID badge around their necks, will be interviewing residents by asking questions from either the 2000 census' short or long forms. The short form interview is estimated to take about seven minutes, while the long form will take about 30 minutes. One out of seven residences will be inter viewed with the long-form questionnaire.

        “Before we were asking people to mail in their census forms, but now our message is to please cooperate with our enumerators,” said Cynthia King, spokeswoman for the Cincinnati office of the U.S. Census Bureau. “Please open your door to your future,” she said in reference to the federal and state funding that is tied to each decade's census tabulations.

        Training in most cases takes three days and includes everything from deal ing with noncooperative or potentially dangerous residents — enumerators are told not to enter a residence but to interview at the door — to proper penmanship in filling out census forms. The completed census forms are scanned by optical readers and the data tabulated at regional offices.

        Recruitment of the more than half-million temporary workers needed nationwide continues at Tristate census offices and those around the country.

        “We'll be looking until the very end,” said Marc Bergman, local census office manager for Northern Kentucky. Census officials expect a steady attrition rate and anticipate continuous training of new enumerators as needed through July 7.

        Hourly rates at some offices have reached $13.25 for the temporary, part-time workers needed to go door-to-door.

        Denis Clark of Reily Township said he applied for an enumerator position out of a sense of civic duty rather than any interest in money.

        “To me it's a challenge. Getting people to open up and cooperate,” Mr. Clark sai.

        He described the training he received in the Butler County census office as “very efficient.”

        So far Ohio has been one of the leaders in its rate of census form returns. According to national census officials, Ohio is ranked sixth nationally in response rates with 70 percent of forms already returned.

        Iowa leads the nation in returns with 73 percent. Indiana reported a 66 percent mail response and Kentucky a 63 percent response.

        Alaska has the lowest mail response rate at 54 percent. Overall more than 65 percent of U.S. households have returned their census forms.

        Those interested in working for the Cincinnati census office should call 381-5907, and (888) 325-7733 for all other Tristate census offices.


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