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entitled 'Decennial Census: Lessons Learned for Locating and Counting 
Migrant and Seasonal Farm Workers' which was released on August 04, 
2003.

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Report to the Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Government Reform, 
House of Representatives:

July 2003:

DECENNIAL CENSUS:

Lessons Learned for Locating and Counting Migrant and Seasonal Farm 
Workers:

GAO-03-605:

GAO Highlights:

Highlights of GAO-03-605, a report to the Ranking Minority Member, 
Committee on Government Reform

Why GAO Did This Study:

One of the U.S. Census Bureauís (Bureau) long-standing challenges has 
been counting migrant farm workers. Although the Bureau goes to great 
lengths to locate these individuals, its efforts are often hampered by 
the unconventional and hidden housing arrangements, distrust of 
outsiders, and language and literacy issues often associated with this 
population group. To help inform the planning for the 2010 Census, we 
were asked to review the adequacy of the Bureauís procedures for 
locating migrant farm workers and their dwellings during the 2000 
Census, and the steps, if any, that the Bureau can take to improve 
those procedures.

what GAO Found:

The Bureau used over a dozen operations to ensure a complete address 
list and accurate maps for the 2000 Census. To the extent that the 
operations were properly implemented, their design appears to have 
been adequate for identifying the hidden dwellings in which some 
migrant farm workers live, such as basement apartments. However, the 
operations were not as well suited to overcoming other difficulties 
associated with locating migrant farm workers such as language and 
literacy issues and a distrust of outsiders. These challenges were 
surmounted more effectively by relying on local advocacy groups and 
others in the community who knew where and how migrant farm workers 
lived, and could facilitate the Bureauís access to those areas. 

The Bureauís plans for the 2010 Census include an ambitious program to 
make its maps more accurate. However, additional steps will be needed. 
Local and regional census offices employed innovative practices during 
the 2000 Census that could help improve the Bureauís ability to locate 
migrant farm workers in 2010. They include partnering with state and 
local governments earlier in the decade when many address-listing 
operations take place (during the 2000 Census, the Bureauís 
partnership program was used largely to get people to participate in 
the Census, but these activities took place after the Bureau had 
completed most of its address list development activities). Other 
innovations included making use of address information from local 
advocacy groups to help find migrant farm workers, and using census 
and other demographic data strategically to plan operations and target 
resources to those areas with high numbers of migrant farm workers.

what GAO Recommends: 

The Secretary of Commerce should direct the Bureau to (1) study the 
feasibility of staffing partnership efforts at higher levels earlier 
in the decade to support address-listing activities, (2) consider 
developing protocols to allow the Bureau to take advantage of the 
address information kept by advocacy groups while preserving the 
confidentiality and integrity of the Bureauís master address list, and 
(3) explore integrating census and other data to help plan operations 
and target resources to those areas with large migrant farm work 
populations. In commenting on a draft of this report, the Bureau 
stated that it generally agreed with our conclusions and will work 
toward implementing our recommendations.

www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-605.

To view the full report, including the scope and methodology, click on 
the link above. For more information, contact Patricia A. Dalton at 
(202) 512-6806 or daltonp@gao.gov.

[End of section]

Contents:

Letter:

Results in Brief:

Background:

Scope and Methodology:

The Bureau's Listing Operations Addressed Some of the Barriers to 
Locating Migrant and Seasonal Farm Workers but Significant Challenges 
Remain:

Greater Use of Partnership Program and Innovative Practices Could 
Improve the Bureau's Ability to Locate Migrant Farm Workers in the 
Future:

Conclusions:

Recommendations for Executive Action:

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation:

Appendixes:

Appendix I: Comments from the Secretary of Commerce: 

Appendix II: Related GAO Products on the Results of the 2000 Census and
Lessons Learned for a More Effective Census in 2010: 

Table 

Table 1: Listing Operations Addressed Only Some of the Challenges
Associated With Locating Migrant Farm Workersí Dwellings: 

Figures 

Figure 1: Barriers to Locating and Counting Migrant Farm Workers: 

Figure 2: Be Counted Forms in a California Grocery Store: 

Figure 3: Timeline of Address List Building Operations: 

Figure 4: Habitable Dwellings Could be Hard to Identify: 

Figure 5: Single or Multi-unit Dwelling?: 

Figure 6: Migrant Labor Camp: 

Figure 7: Migrant Labor Camps Were Sometimes Fenced-in and Difficult 
to Access: 

Figure 8: Training Materials in McAllen, Tex., Arrived Too Late to Be 
Used: 

Letter July 3, 2003:

The Honorable Henry A. Waxman 
Ranking Minority Member 
Committee on Government Reform 
House of Representatives:

Dear Mr. Waxman:

One of the U.S. Census Bureau's (Bureau) long-standing challenges has 
been counting migrant and seasonal farm workers. Although the Bureau 
takes extra steps to count these individuals, its efforts are hampered 
by the frequent moves, temporary and unconventional housing 
arrangements, overcrowded dwellings, and language barriers that often 
accompany this population.

A cost-effective count of migrant farm workers, like all population 
groups, begins with an accurate address list and precise maps. 
Together, they help ensure that questionnaires are properly delivered; 
unnecessary and costly follow-up efforts at vacant or nonexistent 
residences are reduced; and people are counted in their usual place of 
residence, which is the basis for congressional reapportionment and 
redistricting. According to the Bureau, dwellings not on the address 
list at the time of questionnaire delivery are less likely to be 
counted.

The Bureau is currently developing and testing its operations for the 
2010 Census, and plans to design specific operations for locating 
migrant farm workers and their dwellings later in the decade. At your 
request, to help inform those efforts, we reviewed the adequacy of the 
Bureau's operations for locating migrant farm workers and their 
dwellings during the 2000 Census, and the steps, if any, that the 
Bureau can take to improve those operations as it plans for the next 
national head count in 2010. This report is the latest in a series of 
evaluations on the results of the 2000 Census and the Bureau's plans 
for 2010. It is also one of several that we have issued on the Bureau's 
efforts to build a complete and accurate address list. (See app. II for 
the list of reports issued to date.):

Results in Brief:

The Bureau used over a dozen operations to help ensure the maps and 
Master Address File (MAF) used for the 2000 Census were as complete and 
accurate as possible. To the extent they were properly implemented, the 
operations appear to have been adequate for overcoming the challenge of 
identifying the hidden dwellings in which many migrant farm workers 
live, such as illegally converted apartments and labor camps.

The operations were generally not as well suited to overcoming other 
challenges associated with locating migrant farm workers. For example, 
many migrant farm workers speak little or no English, which made it 
difficult for them to provide address information to census workers. 
The Bureau was better able to surmount these challenges by relying on 
local advocacy groups and other members of the community who knew where 
and how migrant farm workers lived, and could facilitate the Bureau's 
access to those areas because the migrant farm workers trusted them.

The Bureau also experienced sporadic difficulties implementing 
operations used to build the MAF, which created various inefficiencies. 
For example, at some local census offices, materials used to train 
census workers on how to update the address list and enumerate people 
were delivered late. This created extra work for some regional and 
local census offices when they had to print the materials from e-mail 
messages.

The Bureau's plans for the 2010 Census include an ambitious program to 
modernize the MAF and the Bureau's database that supports its mapping 
efforts, called the Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and 
Referencing (TIGER) system. Although these efforts are steps in the 
right direction, additional improvements are needed to help the Bureau 
better locate migrant farm workers and their dwellings.

We identified several innovative practices in this regard that regional 
and local census offices employed during the 2000 Census that, with 
refinements, show promise for nationwide use in 2010. For example, 
during the 2000 Census, a regional census office accepted address 
information from a migrant farm worker advocacy group that contained 
more than 3,000 housing units that were not already on the Bureau's 
address list. However, the Bureau lacked protocols governing when and 
how to use address information from outside sources. Moreover, while 
the Bureau had an active partnership program with state and local 
governments, community groups, and other organizations to support key 
census-taking activities, it was not fully staffed until after most of 
the address list development operations had taken place, which limited 
the extent to which the partnership program could add value to those 
efforts. Using census, address, and other data strategically to help 
plan operations and target resources to those areas where migrant farm 
workers are prevalent could also help the Bureau better locate this 
population group. With this in mind, to help improve the Bureau's 
ability to locate migrant farm workers and their dwellings, we 
recommend that the Secretary of Commerce direct the Bureau to explore 
the feasibility of implementing these innovative practices nationwide, 
take steps to resolve the various implementation difficulties the 
Bureau experienced, and make better use of census and other available 
data to identify areas with large numbers of migrant farm workers to 
better plan operations and target resources more efficiently.

The Secretary of Commerce forwarded written comments from the Bureau of 
the Census on a draft of this report. The comments are reprinted in 
appendix I. The Bureau generally agreed with our conclusions and will 
work towards implementing the recommendations in the report.

Background:

The foundation of a successful census is a complete and accurate 
address list and the maps that go with it. The Bureau's MAF is an 
inventory of the nation's roughly 120 million living quarters and 
serves as the basic control for the census in that it is used to 
deliver questionnaires as well as organize the collection and 
tabulation of data. The Bureau develops its maps from its TIGER 
database, which contains such information as housing unit locations, 
zip codes, streets, geographic borders, census tract and block 
boundaries, railroads, airports, and schools.

The Bureau goes to great lengths to develop a quality address list and 
maps, working with the U.S. Postal Service; federal agencies; state, 
local, and tribal governments; local planning organizations; the 
private sector; and nongovernmental entities. The Bureau also sends 
thousands of temporary census workers into the field to verify address 
information on site. For the 2000 Census, the Bureau spent around $390 
million on its address list compilation activities, which was about 6 
percent of the $6.5 billion spent on the census, or about $3.33 for 
each housing unit.

Despite these efforts, the Bureau has historically encountered 
difficulties locating the dwellings of migrant farm workers because of 
a variety of obstacles ranging from workers' literacy levels to their 
legal status (see fig. 1). The net result is that migrants' places of 
residence may not get included in the MAF, which decreases their 
chances of being counted in the census.

Figure 1: Barriers to Locating and Counting Migrant Farm Workers:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

Ensuring that migrant farm workers are included in the census is 
important for at least two reasons. First, the Bureau is legally 
required to count all persons who reside in the United States on Census 
Day, regardless of their citizenship status or whether they are here 
legally or illegally. Second, according to the Bureau, migrant and 
seasonal farm workers have unique health, job safety, training, 
education, and other requirements. Federal, state, and local 
governments as well as other organizations use census data to plan and 
fund many of the programs that address these needs.

Scope and Methodology:

Our objectives were to (1) review the adequacy of the Bureau's 
operations for locating migrant farm workers and their dwellings during 
the 2000 Census, and (2) identify how, if at all, the Bureau can 
improve those operations for the next decennial census in 2010. Because 
the Bureau does not keep data on how well its address list development 
operations located the dwellings of specific population groups such as 
migrant farm workers (the operations were developed to locate dwellings 
regardless of who might live in them), to meet our two objectives we 
examined relevant Bureau program and research documents. We also 
interviewed key Bureau headquarters officials who were responsible for 
planning and implementing the address list development operations.

Moreover, to obtain a local perspective on how the Bureau implemented 
its address list development operations and tried to overcome the 
challenges of locating the dwellings of migrant farm workers, we 
interviewed Bureau officials from 4 of its 12 regional offices (i.e., 
Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, and Los Angeles). We also interviewed 
former local census workers in Central California and Florida who 
helped conduct local address listing. We selected these areas primarily 
for their geographic dispersion and demographic diversity, and because 
these areas were identified before the 2000 Census as having a large 
number of migrant farm workers. Because of the small sample size, the 
results of our visits cannot be generalized to the Bureau's MAF-
building efforts as a whole, but they do provide useful lessons and 
innovative practices that the Bureau could consider for 2010. We also 
included the results of our earlier work that consisted of on-site 
observations of block canvassing--an operation the Bureau used to 
verify the accuracy of "city-style" addresses.[Footnote 1] We made 
these observations when the operation was underway in the spring of 
1999 in Dallas, Tex; Los Angeles, Calif; Paterson, N.J; and Long 
Island, N.Y., which we chose for their geographic and demographic 
diversity.[Footnote 2]

We also included the results of our survey of a stratified random 
sample of 250 local census office managers in which we obtained 
responses from 236 managers (about a 94 percent overall response rate). 
The survey--which asked local census office managers about the 
implementation of a number of key field operations--can be generalized 
to the 511 local census offices located in the 50 states. All reported 
percentages are estimates based on the sample and are subject to some 
sampling error as well as nonsampling error. In general, percentage 
estimates in this report for the entire sample have a sampling error 
ranging from about +/-4 to +/-5 percentage points at the 95 percent 
confidence interval. In other words, if all local census office 
managers in our population had been surveyed, the chances are 95 out of 
100 that the result obtained would not differ from our sample estimate 
in the more extreme cases by more than +/-5 percent.

To provide further local context, we interviewed representatives of 
farm worker and other advocacy groups that worked with the Bureau to 
develop accurate address lists in Florida, Georgia, and California, as 
well as representatives of local governments who provided local address 
information to the Bureau. Moreover, we interviewed growers in Florida 
to discuss how they worked with the Census Bureau. In addition to these 
field locations, we performed our audit work at Bureau headquarters in 
Suitland, Md., as well as in Washington, D.C.

We performed our audit work for this report from September 2001 through 
April 2003, in accordance with generally accepted government auditing 
standards. We requested comments on a draft of this report from the 
Secretary of Commerce. On June 2, 2003, the Secretary forwarded the 
Bureau's written comments on the draft (see app. I), which we address 
in the "Agency Comments and Our Evaluation" section of this report.

The Bureau's Listing Operations Addressed Some of the Barriers to 
Locating Migrant and Seasonal Farm Workers but Significant Challenges 
Remain:

The Bureau used more than a dozen operations to help ensure a complete 
and accurate address list. Although the operations were designed to 
locate various types of dwellings, not population groups as a whole, if 
properly implemented their design appears to have been adequate for 
identifying the hidden living arrangements in which a number of migrant 
and seasonal farm workers live. However, the operations were generally 
not as well suited to overcoming language and other challenges 
associated with locating these population groups. Moreover, various 
implementation problems hampered the Bureau's activities at certain 
locations.

The Bureau's Operations Could Not Overcome Certain Challenges:

The MAF consists of two types of dwellings: housing units such as 
single-family homes, apartments, and mobile homes and what the Bureau 
calls "special places and group quarters." A special place is an entity 
with which a group quarter is linked. For example, a university is a 
special place and a dormitory is a group quarter linked to the 
university.

To build the master address list for the 2000 Census, the Bureau 
employed over a dozen operations nationwide between 1997 and 2000. Each 
operation was geared toward locating either housing units or special 
places, although both address types could be added to the MAF by most 
of the operations. The Bureau enhanced these "standard" address list 
development operations with supplemental procedures for use in areas 
with large migrant farm worker populations that directed Bureau 
employees to, among other actions, check vehicles for evidence of 
habitation.

Operations aimed at locating and verifying the existence of housing 
units included, among others:

* United States Postal Service File Transfer (November 1997), where the 
Postal Service electronically shared with the Bureau the address lists 
it uses to deliver mail. The MAF was updated periodically by the Postal 
Service data between November 1997 and January 2000.

* Local Update of Census Addresses (May 1998-June 2000), where local 
and tribal government officials reviewed and updated the Bureau's 
address lists and maps. Participating governments could submit their 
changes in paper or electronic form.

* Address Listing (July 1998-May 1999), a field operation where census 
workers traveled the roads in areas with mail delivery systems that are 
not predominately based on street names and street addresses, 
identifying housing units and updating census maps as necessary.

* Block Canvassing (January-July 1999), a field operation where census 
workers verified the addresses of all the housing units in areas with 
mail delivery systems that are predominately based on street names and 
street addresses, and updated census maps as necessary.

* Update/Leave and Update/Enumerate (March-July 2000), field operations 
where census workers either distributed a census questionnaire to be 
returned by mail (update/leave) or, in certain areas, attempted to 
enumerate the household. The address list would be updated at the same 
time.

* Nonresponse Follow-up (April-June 2000), where temporary census 
workers attempted to enumerate households for which a questionnaire was 
not returned by mail. Any dwellings not on the workers' assignment 
lists were also to be enumerated and possibly added to the MAF.

Operations meant to locate primarily special places and group quarters 
included, among others:

* Advance Visit and Facility Questionnaire operations (November 1998-
March 2000), where temporary census workers personally visited with 
officials of special places to identify locations and specific 
dwellings.

* Special Places Local Update of Census Addresses (December 1999-May 
2000), where local government officials reviewed and updated the 
Bureau's list of special places.

* Local Knowledge Update (January-February 2000), where local census 
office staff reviewed the Bureau's list of special places and added, 
deleted, or corrected special place names and addresses as appropriate.

If all of these operations failed to find a dwelling, people could 
still be included in the census through the Be Counted program, which 
the Bureau developed to enumerate people who believed they did not 
receive a census questionnaire, or were otherwise not included in the 
census. The program also allowed people with no usual residence on 
Census Day such as migrants, seasonal farm workers, and transients to 
get counted in the census. The Bureau placed Be Counted forms 
(specially modified short-form questionnaires) in community centers, 
churches, groceries, and other locations where the targeted groups were 
thought to congregate (see fig. 2).

Figure 2: Be Counted Forms in a California Grocery Store:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

As shown in figure 3, the MAF-building operations were sequential and 
took place between 1997 and 2000, which helped ensure that an address 
missed in one operation could be found in a subsequent operation. For 
example, if an unconventional dwelling was not recognized as habitable 
during an early operation such as address listing, it could be found 
during a later operation, such as update/leave.

Figure 3: Timeline of Address List Building Operations:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

Overall, to the extent that they were properly implemented, the design 
of the Bureau's MAF-building operations appears to have been adequate 
for identifying the hidden and unconventional dwellings in which many 
migrant farm workers reside. Indeed, of the 11 operations below, 9 
involved on-site verification by census workers or input from 
knowledgeable local officials, which made it more likely that hidden 
dwellings would be found (see table 1). The two that do not are the 
Postal Service file transfer and the Be Counted program.

Table 1: Listing Operations Addressed Only Some of the Challenges 
Associated With Locating Migrant Farm Workers' Dwellings:

[See PDF for image]

Source: GAO analysis of Census data.

[End of table]

However, most of these operations were not as well suited to overcoming 
other challenges to locating migrant farm workers, such as a distrust 
of outsiders and language and literacy issues. The Bureau appeared to 
do a better job surmounting these challenges when it worked with local 
people who knew where and how migrant farm workers lived, and could 
help facilitate the Bureau's access to those communities. Indeed, at 
the time of the later operations, local and regional census offices 
could hire qualified noncitizens to help locate dwellings.

Some local census offices also hired "cultural facilitators"--people 
with ties to a particular community who knew where specific population 
groups lived and could speak their language, and could thus ease the 
Bureau's access to those areas. Local offices in the Dallas census 
region hired residents of the colonias (small, rural, unincorporated 
communities along the U.S.-Mexico border) as cultural facilitators to 
accompany temporary census employees on their assignments. Their 
presence helped reduce barriers that would have prevented the census 
employees from obtaining a successful interview. However, cultural 
facilitators were not deployed during the two major MAF development 
operations, address listing and block canvassing. Instead, the Bureau 
used cultural facilitators for later operations that could add or 
delete addresses from the MAF, but were geared toward enumeration.

If deployed during block canvassing and address listing, cultural 
facilitators could accompany census workers and, because of their 
knowledge of local living conditions, help them determine whether any 
of the sheds, cars, boxes, and other potential shelters they might 
encounter were in fact habitable dwellings. This would be important 
because although the Bureau took steps to train workers to look for 
extra mailboxes, utility meters, and other signs of habitation, 
decisions on what was a habitable dwelling were often subjective--what 
was habitable to one worker may have been uninhabitable to another. 
Even with the Bureau's guidelines and training, deciding whether a 
house is unfit for habitation or merely unoccupied and boarded-up can 
be very difficult. An incorrect decision on the part of the census 
worker could have caused the dwelling and its occupants to get missed 
by the census. Conversely, if the dwelling was listed as habitable when 
it was not, it could have received a questionnaire and follow-up visits 
during the enumeration phase, thus increasing the cost of the census. 
Nationally, 8.2 percent of the roughly 120 million housing units on the 
Bureau's address list at the start of Census 2000 were later determined 
to be nonexistent.

We observed this challenge first-hand on one of our site visits, where 
a representative of a farm worker advocacy group showed us a housing 
unit that he said was not on the Bureau's address list. As can be seen 
below, the housing unit in question was a small wooden structure behind 
a larger house that could have easily been mistaken for a storage shed 
(see fig. 4).

Figure 4: Habitable Dwellings Could be Hard to Identify:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

Census workers would have needed a fair amount of cultural sensitivity 
and knowledge of local living conditions to recognize the structure as 
a potential residence. Although census workers were instructed to make 
every effort to make contact with adult farm workers who lived in the 
area, the farm workers did not always tell the truth because the 
dwellings were sometimes illegal or the inhabitants undocumented.

Living quarters were difficult to identify in other ways. For example, 
as shown in figure 5, what appears to be a small, single-family house 
could contain an illegal apartment as suggested by its two doorbells.

Figure 5: Single or Multi-unit Dwelling?

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

Implementation Difficulties Added to the Bureau's Challenges in Finding 
Migrant and Seasonal Farm Workers:

Implementation and logistical problems at some locations also hampered 
the Bureau's efforts to locate migrant and seasonal farm workers. They 
included the following:

* Accessing labor camps and farms was often difficult. We found the 
migrant labor camp and farm shown in figure 6 off of a state road on 
one of our site visits. Although this particular camp was readily 
visible and the farm owner was willing to have census workers come onto 
his land, this was not always the case at other farms.

Figure 6: Migrant Labor Camp:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

Indeed, as shown in figure 7, some dormitories were fenced-in and 
posted with "No Trespassing" signs, while others were in remote 
locations away from main roads. Although property owners are required 
by law to allow census workers onto their land to enumerate residents, 
owners sometimes created an unwelcome and intimidating atmosphere. For 
example, a census worker at one of our site visits told us that one 
farm with worker housing on its premises was patrolled by armed guards.

Figure 7: Migrant Labor Camps Were Sometimes Fenced-in and Difficult to 
Access:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

* Training materials for MAF-building and enumeration operations 
arrived late. Local and regional Bureau staff we contacted reported 
that, for a variety of reasons, training materials often arrived later 
than they had planned and, in some cases, so late that extra steps had 
to be taken by local offices to ensure that training could take place 
on schedule. For example, at one office we visited, the late materials 
created unnecessary staff work when an official from the McAllen, Tex., 
local census office reported that he had to drive 142 miles to the 
Laredo, Tex., local census office to obtain copies of needed training 
materials. As shown in figure 8, the boxes of training kits arrived too 
late to be used. Other local census office managers said that they 
received multiple revisions of the same training materials, which 
caused confusion. Bureau officials told us that special place and group 
quarters procedures were of a lower priority than other procedures and, 
therefore, the procedures and training materials were not finalized 
until very late. Local census office managers in the Bureau's Atlanta 
and Los Angeles regions reported that they had to print training 
materials from e-mail attachments finalized and received the night 
before training was scheduled to begin. Bureau guidance encouraged 
trainers to collect, organize, and study the training materials well in 
advance of their training session, but the late receipt of these 
materials impeded their ability to do so. According to one regional 
office official, the late arrival of training materials resulted in 
some local office officials being unprepared to run field operations.

Figure 8: Training Materials in McAllen, Tex., Arrived Too Late to Be 
Used:

[See PDF for image]

[End of figure]

* The system for managing field operations confused local census staff. 
The Bureau used an automated system to track field operations. However, 
one of its shortcomings was that it did not show a group quarters 
(e.g., a dormitory) that was in one local census office's jurisdiction, 
if the group quarters was linked to a special place (a college) in 
another office's jurisdiction. In addition, the two sets of 
instructions that told workers how to handle these situations 
conflicted with one another. One set of instructions stated that the 
local census office in which the special place resides "must handle all 
operations associated with the special place," while a second set of 
instructions noted that local census offices were responsible for 
enumerating all group quarters within their area.

Additionally, to avoid this shortcoming, regional census office 
officials told us that local census office staff, when keying data into 
the automated system, sometimes gave the group quarters located outside 
of their area an address that was inside their office's jurisdiction so 
that the group quarters would show up as part of the office's workload. 
Because this group quarters then had an incorrect address, its 
residents wound up being counted in the wrong geographic location.

Greater Use of Partnership Program and Innovative Practices Could 
Improve the Bureau's Ability to Locate Migrant Farm Workers in the 
Future:

Bureau officials told us that because it is relatively early in the 
decade, its plans for locating and enumerating migrant farm workers are 
still being developed. However, the Bureau has launched an ambitious 
MAF/TIGER modernization program. As part of this effort, the Bureau 
plans to correct the locations of streets and other map features; work 
with state, local, and tribal governments to obtain better geographic 
information; and modernize its geographic data processing operations. 
The Bureau's longer term plans include equipping census workers with 
Global Positioning System receivers that use satellites to help them 
determine the precise locations of housing units and group quarters and 
validate the accuracy of each address.

If successfully implemented, the Bureau's enhancements could produce 
more accurate maps that would pinpoint individual dwellings. However, 
for these initiatives to work effectively for migrant farm workers, the 
Bureau must first know where to look for migrant and seasonal farm 
workers' dwellings and be able to overcome challenges to identifying 
where they live. In the course of our review, we identified several 
practices from the 2000 Census that show promise in this regard for 
2010.

* Leverage partnerships. The Bureau partnered with state, local, and 
tribal governments as well as religious, media, educational, and other 
community organizations to improve participation in the 2000 Census and 
to mobilize support for other operations. The partnership program 
stemmed from the Bureau's recognition that local people know the 
characteristics of their communities better than the Census 
Bureau.[Footnote 3] The city of Los Angeles (L.A.), for example, 
directed Department of Water and Power employees, sanitation, and many 
other city workers to identify dwellings that the Bureau may have 
missed as part of its address-list development operations. The city 
selected these employees because they went door-to-door as part of 
their work, and could thus help find nonstandard dwellings. L.A.'s 
Information Technology Agency developed a 10-minute video that 
described the importance of the effort and how to find unconventional 
housing. According to city representatives, the employees found over 
38,000 nonstandard dwellings.

The partnership program was also important for the Be Counted campaign 
as partnership staff worked with local governments, community 
organizations, and other groups to help identify the best places to put 
Be Counted forms, including undercounted and non-English-speaking 
neighborhoods.

However, the full complement of partnership program staff did not come 
on board until after October 1, 1999, when the Bureau filled the 
remaining 202 (34 percent) of the 594 positions authorized for the 
initiative. As shown in figure 3, this was several months after the 
Bureau completed the bulk of its address list-building activities. Had 
the full complement of partnership specialists been available to 
support the listing operations in 1998 and 1999, they could have 
encouraged greater participation on the part of local governments and 
community groups in building a better address list for the 2000 Census, 
much like they did later on in the census to increase local awareness 
of the census and boost response rates.

For example, partnership specialists could reach out to local 
governments and encourage greater participation in the Local Update of 
Census Addresses (LUCA) program. During the 2000 Census, of the 17,424 
eligible city-style jurisdictions the Bureau invited to participate in 
what was known as "LUCA 1998", 9,263 (about 53 percent) volunteered to 
participate. Ultimately, about 36 percent of eligible jurisdictions 
reviewed the material and returned something to the Bureau. Partnership 
specialists could have followed up with the nonresponding localities to 
determine why they did not return material to the Bureau and, if 
necessary, encourage their participation in LUCA.[Footnote 4]

* Make use of address information from local organizations. As part of 
its partnership efforts, the Bureau frequently obtained information 
about special places and group quarters from local advocacy and 
community groups. In one instance, the Bureau's Los Angeles regional 
office partnered with the California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) 
Corporation, a nongovernmental migrant farm worker advocacy group, to 
improve coverage of housing units in areas populated by many migrant 
farm workers.

Carrying forms similar to those used by census workers during the block 
canvassing and address-listing operations, CRLA staff canvassed 
communities where they knew migrant farm workers lived. Because the 
staff were familiar with the types of structures migrant farm workers 
used as dwellings and were known by many of the workers, they were able 
to locate housing units that the Bureau might have missed. According to 
data provided by the Bureau, but not audited by GAO, CRLA staff 
identified over 4,000 addresses of which 3,076 (about 73 percent) the 
Bureau accepted as valid. The Bureau added these addresses to its list 
of housing units to be visited during census follow-up operations.

Bureau officials we spoke with knew of no other instances where the 
Bureau accepted address data from nongovernmental sources, and there 
were no protocols for doing so. Headquarters officials said they were 
not aware of the Los Angeles Region's reliance on CRLA, but that they 
would not necessarily have objected if the region had included the 
information within other tested and approved procedures.

* Use Census data strategically to help plan and manage address listing 
operations. Following each census, the Bureau has a wealth of data on 
the social and demographic characteristics of each and every census 
block in the nation. However, for a variety of reasons the Bureau does 
not always use that information strategically to help inform, plan, and 
administer operations in the subsequent census.

For example, in its initial plan for the 2000 Census, the Bureau 
conceived of a planning database that would capture data down to very 
small geographic levels and would be continuously updated over the 
decade for a number of census purposes. The Bureau envisioned a system 
that, among other functions, would have enabled it to target areas 
where language resources were needed and identify neighborhoods where 
enumeration and recruiting could be difficult. However, a Bureau 
official said the effort was suspended in the mid-1990s for budgetary 
reasons. According to this official, while the Bureau revived the 
planning database later in the decade, it was never completely 
developed or used to the fullest extent possible.

Although the Bureau used labor force data on agricultural workers to 
help target its supplemental MAF-building procedures, some of the data 
was from 1992 and may not have been current enough to be accurate, thus 
highlighting the importance of up-to-date information. For example, 
employees of the Bureau's Atlanta and Charlotte regional offices told 
us that the migrant populations in some locations in their regions had 
grown noticeably during the latter half of the 1990s, and the Charlotte 
employees said that they used the supplemental procedures in many areas 
that had not been previously identified by the Bureau.

In those instances where the Bureau was more successful in using 
demographic information to plan subsequent census-taking activities, 
the potential payoff is clear. As we noted in our report on lessons 
learned for more cost-effective follow-up with 
nonrespondents,[Footnote 5] the Bureau called on local and regional 
census offices to develop action plans that, among other things, 
identified hard-to-enumerate areas within their jurisdictions, such as 
immigrant neighborhoods, and propose strategies for dealing with those 
challenges. The strategies included such methods as paired and team 
enumeration for high-crime areas, and hiring bilingual enumerators. We 
concluded that this advance planning contributed to the timely 
completion of nonresponse follow-up.

If similar advance planning and geographic databases are integrated 
into the MAF-building process early on, the Bureau could produce 
thematic maps that use colors and symbols to show areas where migrant 
and seasonal farm workers and other hard-to-enumerate groups and 
housing are located. The result--a geographic information system 
consisting of "hard-to-list" areas--could help the Bureau target its 
MAF-building, partnership, hiring, and other efforts far more 
efficiently.

* Train census workers in languages other than English. The material 
used to train census workers was printed only in English (the exception 
to this was Puerto Rico, where training kits were available in 
Spanish). However, to better prepare census workers--some of whom spoke 
Spanish as their first language--to locate migrant farm workers and 
other hard-to-count groups, a local census office in the Los Angeles 
region conducted a training session in Spanish. Because the trainer had 
only English language materials, she simultaneously translated these 
materials verbally during the training session. Since the trainees had 
been recruited to help locate and enumerate dwellings in largely 
Spanish-speaking areas, the staff we spoke with believed that 
presenting the training in Spanish directly improved their 
effectiveness.

Conclusions:

The Bureau went to great lengths to build its MAF and locate the 
dwellings of migrant farm workers, using a series of complementary and 
sometimes overlapping operations spanning several years. Together, the 
operations formed a safety net that helped ensure that dwellings missed 
in one operation would be found in a subsequent procedure. 
Nevertheless, while the various MAF-building operations appeared to be 
adequate for locating the hidden housing arrangements in which some 
migrant farm workers live, surmounting barriers such as language and 
literacy issues proved to be more problematic. Combating these 
challenges will be critical to a more complete count of migrant and 
seasonal farm workers and a more accurate census in 2010.

Based on the Bureau's experience during the 2000 Census, this challenge 
might be addressed more successfully by using its own data more 
strategically to target resources, and starting its partnership program 
earlier to support address list development operations, rather than 
with a new or improved MAF-building procedure. At the same time, it 
will be important for the Bureau to address the implementation problems 
that occurred as these operations were carried out. Although they 
appeared to be sporadic in nature, they added inefficiencies to an 
already difficult task.

Recommendations for Executive Action:

To ensure a more complete count of migrant and seasonal farm workers, 
we recommend that the Secretary of Commerce direct the Bureau to take 
the following actions as part of its planning process for the 2010 
Census.

* Identify best practices and lessons learned from the 2000 Census and 
ensure that they are incorporated into planning efforts for the 2010 
Census.

* Study the feasibility of staffing partnership efforts at higher 
levels earlier in the decade to support key address list development 
efforts.

* Consider developing protocols that would allow the Bureau to take 
advantage of housing unit information kept by advocacy and other 
responsible groups, while preserving the confidentiality and integrity 
of the Bureau's master address list.

* Explore integrating census, MAF/TIGER, and other data to produce a 
geographic information system and thematic maps that would identify 
those areas with large migrant farm worker and other hard-to-count 
populations in order to better plan operations and target resources.

* Consider providing training materials in languages other than English 
to targeted areas.

* Ensure that the link between Special Places and Group Quarters is 
clear to those implementing the operations and that responsibility for 
ensuring each group quarter is enumerated is clearly delegated.

* Ensure that MAF-building operations are properly tested and 
integrated with other census operations, and are adequate for locating 
migrant and seasonal farm workers and other hard-to-count groups.

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation:

The Secretary of Commerce forwarded written comments from the Census 
Bureau on a draft of this report on June 2, 2003, which are reprinted 
in appendix I. The Bureau generally agreed with the conclusions of the 
report and said it will work towards implementing our recommendations. 
The Bureau also suggested some minor technical corrections and 
clarifications, which we have incorporated.

In addition, the Bureau noted that our report states that, "the full 
complement of partnership program staff did not come on board until 
after October 1, 1999. . ." and that, "had partnership specialists been 
available to support these earlier operations, they could have 
encouraged greater participation." The Bureau maintains that 
partnership specialists were in fact in place and actively involved in 
supporting address list development activities.

Our report did not state that partnership specialists did not support 
address list development activities. In fact, earlier in the report we 
noted how the Bureau partnered with the city of Los Angeles to help 
find nonstandard dwellings. Rather, our point was that they were thinly 
spread as around a third of the partnership specialist positions were 
not filled until fiscal year 2000, after the Bureau had completed its 
key address list development procedures. We revised the text to clarify 
this.

As agreed with your office, unless you announce its contents earlier, 
we plan no further distribution of this report until 30 days after its 
issuance date. At that time, we will send copies of the report to other 
interested congressional committees, the Secretary of Commerce, and the 
Director of the U.S. Census Bureau. Copies will be made available to 
others upon request. This report will also be available at no charge on 
GAO's Web site at http://www.gao.gov.

If you or your staff have any questions concerning this report, please 
contact me on (202) 512-6806 or by e-mail at daltonp@gao.gov or Robert 
Goldenkoff, Assistant Director, on (202) 512-2757 or by e-mail at 
goldenkoffr@gao.gov. Key contributors to this report were Benjamin 
Crawford, Ty Mitchell, Corinna Wengryn, Timothy Wexler, and Christopher 
Miller.

Sincerely yours,

Patricia A. Dalton 
Director Strategic Issues:

Signed by Patricia A. Dalton: 

[End of section]

Appendixes:

Appendix I: Comments from the Secretary of Commerce:

THE SECRETARY OF COMMERCE Washington, D.C. 20230:

June 2, 2003:

Ms. Patricia A. Dalton Director:

Strategic Issues:

General Accounting Office Washington, DC 20548:

Dear Ms. Dalton:

The Department of Commerce appreciates the opportunity to comment on 
the General Accounting Office draft document entitled Decennial Census: 
Lessons Learned for Locating and Counting Migrant and Seasonal Farm 
Workers. The Department's comments on this report are enclosed.

Sincerely, 

Donald L. Evans:

Signed by Donald L. Evans:

Enclosure:

Comments from the U.S. Department of Commerce U.S. Census Bureau:

U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) draft report entitled Decennial 
Census: Lessons Learned for Locating and Counting Migrant and Seasonal 
Farm Workers:

Comments on the Text of the Report:

The U.S. Census Bureau has reviewed this report carefully and 
appreciates this opportunity to respond prior to its publication.

We are in general agreement with the conclusions of this report and 
will work toward implementing GAO's recommendations. We have the 
following minor corrections and clarifications:

Page 10-GAO's descriptions of the Address Listing and Block Canvassing 
operations need to be clarified. It would be more accurate to describe 
Address Listing as "a field operation where census workers traveled the 
roads in areas with mail delivery systems that are not predominately 
based on street names and street addresses," and Block Canvassing as "a 
field operation where census workers verified the addresses of all the 
housing units in areas with mail delivery systems that are 
predominately based on street names and street addresses.":

Page 10-GAO refers to the Advance Visit and Facility Questionnaire 
operation and states that it was conducted from April-November 1999. In 
fact, these were two separate operations. The Facility Questionnaire 
Operation was conducted from November 1998-March 2000. The Advance 
Visit Operation was conducted from February 2000-March 2000.

Page 12-The time line of Address List Building Operations needs to be 
updated to include the dates and operations as listed in the previous 
bullet.

Page 22-The report states that "the full complement of partnership 
program staff did not come on board until after October 1, 1999," and 
goes on to state that "had partnership specialists been available to 
support these earlier operations, they could have encouraged greater 
participation ...... In fact, partnership specialists were in place and 
actively involved in supporting address list-building activities.

Page 23-The report states that "the planning database ... was never 
fully developed and used." This is not accurate; the planning database 
was used during Census 2000 operations.

[End of section]

Appendix II: Related GAO Products on the Results of the 2000 Census and 
Lessons Learned for a More Effective Census in 2010:

2000 Census Coverage Measurement Programs' Results, Costs, and Lessons 
Learned. GAO-03-287. Washington, D.C.: January 29, 2003.

Decennial Census: Methods for Collecting and Reporting Hispanic 
Subgroup Data Need Refinement. GAO-03-228. Washington, D.C.: January 
17, 2003.

Decennial Census: Methods for Collecting and Reporting Data on the 
Homeless and Others without Conventional Housing Need Refinement. GAO-
03-227. Washington, D.C.: January 17, 2003.

2000 Census: Complete Costs of Coverage Evaluation Programs Are Not 
Available. GAO-03-41. Washington, D.C.: October 31, 2002.

2000 Census: Lessons Learned for Planning a More Cost-Effective 2010 
Census. GAO-03-40. Washington, D.C.: October 31, 2002.

The American Community Survey: Accuracy and Timeliness Issues. GAO-02-
956R. Washington, D.C.: September 30, 2002.

2000 Census: Refinements to Full Count Review Program Could Improve 
Future Data Quality. GAO-02-562. Washington, D.C.: July 3, 2002.

2000 Census: Coverage Evaluation Matching Implemented As Planned, but 
Census Bureau Should Evaluate Lessons Learned. GAO-02-297. Washington, 
D.C.: March 14, 2002.

2000 Census: Best Practices and Lessons Learned for More Cost-Effective 
Nonresponse Follow-Up. GAO-02-196. Washington, D.C.: February 11, 2002.

2000 Census: Coverage Evaluation Interviewing Overcame Challenges, but 
Further Research Needed. GAO-02-26. Washington, D.C.: December 31, 
2001.

2000 Census: Analysis of Fiscal Year 2000 Budget and Internal Control 
Weaknesses at the U.S. Census Bureau. GAO-02-30. Washington, D.C.: 
December 28, 2001.

2000 Census: Significant Increase in Cost Per Housing Unit Compared to 
1990 Census. GAO-02-31. Washington, D.C.: December 11, 2001.

2000 Census: Better Productivity Data Needed for Future Planning and 
Budgeting. GAO-02-4. Washington, D.C.: October 4, 2001.

2000 Census: Review of Partnership Program Highlights Best Practices 
for Future Operations. GAO-01-579. Washington, D.C.: August 20, 2001.

Decennial Censuses: Historical Data on Enumerator Productivity Are 
Limited. GAO-01-208R. Washington, D.C.: January 5, 2001.

2000 Census: Information on Short-and Long-Form Response Rates. GAO/
GGD-00-127R. Washington, D.C.: June 7, 2000.

Decennial Census: Information on the Accuracy of Address Coverage. GAO/
GGD-00-29R. Washington, D.C.: November 19, 1999.

2000 Census: Local Address Review Program Has Had Mixed Results to 
Date. GAO/T-GGD-99-184. Washington, D.C.: September 29, 1999.

(450074):

FOOTNOTES

[1] City-style addresses are those where the U.S. Postal Service uses 
house-number and street-name addresses for mail delivery. Non-city-
style addresses include post office boxes, rural route addresses, etc.

[2] U.S. General Accounting Office, Decennial Census: Information on 
the Accuracy of Address Coverage, GAO/GGD-00-29R (Washington D.C: Nov. 
19, 1999).

[3] For more information on the Bureau's partnership program, see U.S. 
General Accounting Office, 2000 Census: Review of Partnership Program 
Highlights Best Practices for Future Operations, GAO-01-579 
(Washington, D.C.: Aug. 20, 2001).

[4] For more information about the LUCA program, see U.S.General 
Accounting Office, 2000 Census: Local Address Review Program Has Had 
Mixed Results to Date, GAO/T-GGD-99-184 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 29, 
1999).

[5] U.S. General Accounting Office, 2000 Census: Best Practices and 
Lessons Learned for More Cost-Effective Nonresponse Follow-Up, GAO-02-
196 (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 11, 2002).

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