Some census takers who falsified data have not been fired

Some census takers who falsified information during the 2020 census did not have their work fully redone, were not fired on time, and in some cases even received bonuses, according to the U.S. Commerce Department’s monitoring group.

The findings, released Friday by the inspector general’s office, raise concerns about a possible impact on the quality of the once-a-decade staff count, which determines political power and federal funding.

Off-campus students at colleges and universities were likely undercounted because the census began around the same time students were sent home in March 2020 to stop the spread of COVID-19, the review said.

During the 2020 census, The Associated Press documented cases of census takers being pressured by their supervisors to enter false information about homes they had not visited into a computer system so they could close cases in the closing days of the census.

Regulators were able to track the work of their census officers in real time through mobile devices, which the census officers used to record information about household numbers, demographics, and member-to-member relationships. As a result, supervisors received notifications when actions triggered accuracy alerts, e.g. B. when a census taker was recording data on a house while far from the address, or a census taker conducting an interview in just a few minutes. As a quality control, other census takers were sent back to the homes to interview residents again.

In some cases, participants in the 2020 census who falsified information were said to have received bonuses.
In some cases, participants in the 2020 census who falsified information were said to have received bonuses.
Photo by Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The inspector general’s investigation concluded that some alerts were not properly resolved, some re-interviews were not properly conducted, and that the work of some census takers whose work had been flagged for data falsification had not been revised to fix its accuracy. In fact, some census takers whose work was flagged for forgery received more cases, were not fired, and were reassigned to other operations, the report said.

Of the 1,400 census takers who were labeled “tough failures” because of doubts about the accuracy of their work, only 300 were fired for misconduct or unsatisfactory performance. Of the 1,400 “hard fail” census takers, 1,300 of them received bonuses ranging from $50 to $1,600 each, the report said.

The census is the largest non-military mobilization in the United States. Data collected during the census determines how many congressional seats each state receives. The numbers are also used for redrawing political districts and allocating $1.5 trillion a year in federal spending. Because of this, undercounting can cost communities funding.

The 2020 census faced unprecedented challenges, including the pandemic, natural disasters and political interference from the Trump administration.

In response to the inspector general’s report, the Census Bureau said it appreciates the concerns expressed but disagrees with conclusions that data quality may have been compromised because the report cited only a small number of cases from the overall workload.

“As a result, we have maintained that the results could not and should not be presented as a conclusive assessment of the overall quality of the census,” Robert Santos, director of the Census Bureau, said in the written response.

Under Census Bureau rules, college and university students should have been counted where they spent the most time, either in on-campus housing or in off-campus housing, even if they were sent home because of the pandemic. Most schools did not provide off-campus student data to the Census Bureau, and the bureau had to use a less accurate statistical tool as a last resort to fill in the information gaps for more than 10% of off-campus students when they received the information, according to the Inspector General’s report.

Schools often did not provide the data because they did not have information about off-campus students or for privacy reasons. The Inspector General recommends passing legislation that would require schools to provide the necessary information in future enrollment censuses.

“Although difficult to quantify, the tax implications of targeted undercounting of off-campus students in the right place for states and localities are potentially far-reaching,” the report states.

The city of Boston, which is home to Northeastern University, Boston University and several other schools, said in a challenge to its census numbers that the census missed 6,000 students. Some census takers who falsified data have not been fired


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