Workers in Maryland Begin Preparing for 2010 Census

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By Megan Miller
Capital News Service
Sunday, April 19, 2009

It will be a year until the 2010 Census, but Maryland residents should start seeing preliminary work happening in their neighborhoods this month.

The first public preparation for the 2010 Census kicked off recently, with census workers hitting the streets to update a comprehensive database of residential Maryland addresses. Start dates in Maryland vary because of the offices' rates in hiring and training staff, said Monica Davis, media specialist with the Philadelphia Regional Census Center.

"Each office requires about 500 to 600 employees, about 1,500 total, just for the address canvassing operation," she said.

Nationwide, the address verification project will employ 140,000 census workers to check about 145 million home addresses.

U.S. Census Bureau officials say this phase should require little contact between residents and census workers.

"Their purpose is to go street to street to identify where people live," said census media specialist Bill Reed. "They're confirming that a building is a house and not something else, like a shop. The only time that they'll knock on the door . . . is if the building is listed as something other than a residence."

Census workers might also contact residents to ask whether there are other living quarters on a property, Reed said.

The census workers, or "address listers," as they're being called for this task, will carry hand-held computers to update an address database that will be used for mailing the census forms. This is the first time census workers will use such devices.

The computers also allow census workers to enter exact Global Positioning System coordinates for each structure. It's a critical feature to improve data accuracy for things such as political redistricting, said Stephen Buckner, a census spokesman.

"Although the 2000 Census was heralded as the most accurate census ever, there were still some 'geocoding errors' -- homes coded to the wrong jurisdiction," Buckner said. "Instead of putting a pencil point on a map to try to accurately reflect where a house is, now we're using satellite-based technology."

Address listers undergo five days of training, which includes instruction on using the equipment to minimize problems.

But Maryland also faces other difficulties, such as its high rate of home foreclosures, which complicate census-taking efforts.

One of the biggest concerns for 2010 is getting an accurate count in traditionally undercounted populations, such as poverty-stricken areas and immigrant communities.

"We have a high concentration of efforts directly targeted to what have been undercounted communities," Reed said. "There is a tremendous thrust working with community leaders, community media, church groups and service groups in order to eliminate the undercount."

The address-canvassing phase is expected to wrap up in July, officials said. That will be followed by "group quarters validation," when census workers verify who's living in places such as college dorms, prisons and hospitals.

Census forms will be mailed in March, and Census Day, when workers go around collecting the data, is April 1.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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