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Census 2020: How “Enumeration” Will Occur in ND
In other words “How will everyone be counted in the 2020 Census?”
Wikipedia defines the word “enumeration” as: “An enumeration is a complete, ordered listing of all the items in a collection. The term is commonly used in mathematics and computer science to refer to a listing of all of the elements of a set. The precise requirements for an enumeration (for example, whether the set must be finite, or whether the list is allowed to contain repetitions) depends on the discipline of study and the context of a given problem.”  

In the U.S., our decennial census seeks to enumerate all residents of each housing unit in the U.S. This means making sure that everyone is counted in each census block, block group, tract, city, county and state. 
Enumeration is the term used in the U.S. Constitution.
The primary purpose of the decennial census is to fulfill the requirements spelled out in the U.S. Constitution: Article I, Section 2; "The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years.” 

Further, the 14th Amendment in Section 2 reads: "Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State."

The intended outcome is easy to define–simply count every individual where they live on April 1 of 2020. However, getting the actual count isn't easy or inexpensive.
Where You Live Matters in How You Get Counted
The census form goes to the housing unit – not the individual. The intent is to find out how many and who lives in each household. So during the process, the Census Bureau does not assume it knows before it asks. The way each household is counted depends upon a number of factors. The first defining characteristic is the type of housing in which the individuals live.

There are two primary categories: residential and group quarters. Simply put, the residential category is the largest of the two groups and refers to those who reside in single family homes, duplexes, condominiums, apartments and the like.
Group quarters refers to housing like college dorms, prisons, military barracks and so on. Group quarter operations also cover homeless populations.

Areas shaded in blue below are those in which households receive mail delivered to their homes. These households will be mailed their 2020 census forms and asked to self-respond by internet, mail or phone. 

Tan areas are those that receive their mail in a post office box and will have their forms delivered to their homes. No household should receive its census form in a post office box, which has been a common misunderstanding.
Enumeration Areas in the State
Even How You Get Your Mail Matters for Most Individuals
 
Residential housing is further broken down by how individuals receive their mail. If you receive mail at your home, you fall into the group called self-response, or in the U.S. Census Bureau’s coding system Type of Enumeration One (TEA 1). More than 90% of housing in the state falls into this category. Since the post office delivers mail to your home, it can tell where your home is. The U.S. Postal Service shares that data with the Census Bureau on an ongoing basis.

If your chosen residence receives mail by P.O. box, your form will not be mailed, as there is less certainty where your home is at or if more than one household receives mail at the same P.O. box.

In this case, a Census Bureau employee, driving through the neighborhood will deliver the forms to the residence in a program called “Update – Leave” or Type of Enumeration Six (TEA 6). The title Update – Leave refers to the actions of the enumerator upon visiting each housing location. These employees will update the location (correcting, adding or deleting addresses from their list). They will then leave the 2020 census form for the householder to complete.
Not Everyone Lives in Typical Residential Housing
 
Group quarters enumeration differs significantly from residential housing enumeration. In this program, housing units are typically college dorms, nursing homes, prisons or locations where individuals live in groups due to their religious affiliations. In almost all cases of group living, there is an administrator that can be contacted.

Enumeration in this case is much easier than that of residential housing. The state has provided its contact list of these administrators to the Census Bureau to notify them of what is requested and when. In most of these occurrences, the administers will be asked to provide the information required to enumerate each individual in the particular group home location. Generally, this is done by them submitting an electronic list of residents to a Census Bureau server, or if necessary, on paper.

Resident administrators for a given location will be asked to provide a list of residents who spend most of their time at these locations. For example: If an individual is a permanent resident of Grand Forks but attending Dickinson State University, that person should be counted in the 2020 census enumeration at their dorm location in Dickinson.
Counting the Homeless
The homeless are the most difficult to count, as they do not have a set place in which to reside. For such individuals, the Census Bureau will use Service-Based Enumeration (SBE) to count beings at locations like emergency or transitional shelters, domestic violence homes, soup kitchens and places where they gather.
The Census Bureau will contact each organization that provides services to the homeless and arrange for enumerating individuals in these locations on or just prior to Census Day, April 1, 2020. Census Bureau employees will be at those locations where services are provided on a given day and count the number of individuals present.
Knowing Where Housing Units are Located
 
The bureau has been able to verify residential locations in a number of ways. In determining where to count individuals, the Census Bureau is primarily interested in locations where residential housing or group quarters locations exists. Hence, there are efforts to screen out non-residential locations, such as businesses, from the process.

Data shared by the Postal Service with the Census Bureau goes a long way in determining where residential housing exists. To enhance its understanding of housing locations, the Census Bureau has employed satellite imagery. Counties and states share parcel data that shows if a location is zoned for residential or non-residential use. North Dakota has shared data from 50 of the state’s 53 counties to ensure the bureau has the most accurate data possible.
 
In addition, the state has signed up for a program called Count Review. This allows select state of North Dakota employees to review the Census Bureau’s Master Address List and identify missing housing units from the bureau’s list.
Some Individuals Just do Not Respond at First
When the homeowner does not respond to the census form, the mailing will keep coming. A number of follow-up forms and postcards will be sent to the residence reminding you of the need to complete the form. In fact, all households will get the second form as the bureau will not have time to determine if you have responded to the first form or not by the time it needs to send the second one.

If you still do not respond, a Census Bureau employee will come to your house to get answers to the census questions, and the cost to all of us goes up significantly.  

When households still do not respond to the census questionnaire, it triggers a program called Non-Response Follow-Up or NRFU. The bulk of employees needed by the Census Bureau in Census 2020 are needed for NRFU operations, which is kind of a shame. This means we are spending significant amount of funds that now will not be available for other things.

The more difficult it is to conduct the census, the more expensive it becomes to complete. Response rates to surveys have been declining in recent years.
The Census Bureau measures the response rate of households to the initial census form sent to the address. North Dakota households responded to the 2000 Census at a rate of 78%, meaning that 22% of households did not respond to the initial request, slightly better than the national average of 24% of households.

Fast forward to 2010, for households that were mailed a census form, the rate of responses in North Dakota dropped four percentage points from the previous decade to 74%, meaning that 26% of households did not respond to the initial census form. That is more than one in four. While North Dakota fared OK in comparison to other states nationally, the rate dropped to 66.5% of households responding. The level of non-responses is costly and taking funds that could be used for other purposes.

The good news with NRFU, is that once this program starts, many households will begin to respond using the census form they have put aside. Approximately 13% of households that have not previously responded to the census are expected to self-respond once enumerators start to visit their areas.
Some Individuals Refuse to Respond
Sadly, some households just do not respond to either paper form and are not willing to answer the door when an enumerator visits the household. For these households there is a plan-proxy respondentsA proxy is a respondent like a neighbor, real estate agent, caretaker, etc., who is felt to have enough sufficient knowledge to enumerate the household where the Census Bureau has not been able to collect successfully.

This means that after three attempts to visit the housing unit, if the Census Bureau employee is unable to make contact, they may go ask the neighbor. In the 2010 Census, about one-fourth of the NRFU interviews for occupied housing units were conducted using proxy data. The risk in North Dakota is that the responding neighbor may not know all of the residents in the household that is not responding to the Census.

Additionally, if the Census Bureau is unable to find a sufficient number of applicants to fill the required jobs in North Dakota it will likely bring in employees from out of state, and these individuals are less likely to be trusted by local residents. Use of out-of-state employees to conduct census work has already occurred. 

During the August to October time frame the Census Bureau conducted a program called Address Canvasing. This program required about 90 employees to complete, but the Census Bureau was not able to fill all the positions with North Dakota residents.
To make up the difference, employees were brought in from out of state, on taxpayer dollars, including a group of about 10 individuals from the East Coast. We can combat that by hiring in-state representatives to enumerate.

The August to October 2019 Address Canvasing operation did not require most Census Bureau employees to make contact with the household. Non-response follow-up is clearly different, and the staffing requirements are far larger. While the Census Bureau needed only 90 employees during 2019 field operations, it will need an estimated 1,200 for 2020. 

Fifteen counties have been identified as problematic in hiring employees, indicating the Census Bureau has been falling behind in its hiring goals for the state. As of late October these counties were Benson, Burke, Billings, Bowman, Cavalier, Divide, Dunn, Griggs, Kidder, Logan, McLean, Mountrail, Rolette, Sioux and Steele.

Given the low response to the bureau job offering in the state, hourly pay rate was raised from $17 to $21 per hour in most western counties of the state, and from $15.50 to $18 per hour for most eastern counties in the state.

The hourly rate for Cass County was raised from $15.50 to $21 per hour. Hopefully, this will entice a sufficient number of individuals who are interested in the future of the state to take one of these vital positions.
It’s a Huge Team Effort – Federal, State, Local

Getting everyone counted is a huge task. We will live with the results for a 10-year time frame. The impact of an under count in Census 2020 will be felt at the local level and the cost is significant. An estimated $19,100 per person over the decade-long time frame could be lost, If even 0.1% is missed, that is $15 million in federal funding that is allocated to another state. Residents of North Dakota will live with these results – good or bad. Shaping our future for the good is in all or our best interests.

For the 2020 census, local messaging works best. As such, state and local communities have a huge stake in the outcome. The state of North Dakota is acting through the Complete Count Task Force and local complete count committees. When community leaders understand what is in it for their area, they help get the message out. As of Dec. 1, North Dakota has 37 local complete count committees focused on encouraging individuals to self-respond in their area.

Getting everyone counted in the state benefits everyone in the state. Having a high self-response rate is key to minimizing the work load needed in counting non-responsive individuals. This is what we are striving to achieve between now and Census Day.

Sources: 2020 Census Operational Plan, version 3, 2020 Census Detailed Operational Plan 15: Group Quarters, 2020 Census Detailed Operational Plan 18, NRFU Operations and author’s notes.
Trying to Keep the Cost of Enumeration Down 
 
The cost of the decennial census from decade to decade has been climbing at a likely unsustainable rate. The 1980 Census cost $4.76 per person; in 1990, $10.02; in 2000, $15.99; and in 2010, $42.11, not adjusted for inflation. The Census Bureau realized it had a growing problem of the rate of non-response.

They realized this was an ongoing issue, and an expensive one at that. The Census Bureau appears to have learned  – Doing the same thing the same way and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. The bureau is now looking at changing to lower the cost.

The bureau has been testing different approaches this decade to determine how to keep the cost down. One test was planned here in North Dakota in 2016 but was canceled due to a lack of funds. In fact, the 2020 census cost is estimated at just over $41 per person by greatly stepping up the bureau effort to partner with states and local communities and figuring out how likely different groups are to respond.

State-by-state cost estimates are not available. However, given the national rate we can assume the cost in North Dakota for the 2020 census will be roughly $32 million to count the 760,000 plus individuals in the state. These are dollars that need to be spent. But we should be as judicious as possible. Funds spent on the census are funds not available for other public needs.
By examining the rate of returns for the census test conducted this decade, the bureau has learned a great deal about how to determine which populations are most and least likely to respond. This allows the Census Bureau to project its enumerator requirements in each state, county and city.
You can view these results as well by using ROAM. The Response Outreach Area Mapper (ROAM) application was developed to make it easier to identify hard-to-survey areas and to provide a demographic and socioeconomic characteristic profile made up of low response scores and a planning database.

Upcoming Events

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Dec. 10, 2019 - EDC Mixer - Bismarck Event Center
Dec. 13-14, 2019 - NDFU State Convention - Bismarck Event Center

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