oversight

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

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-07-03.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

             United States General Accounting Office

GAO          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
             a
                                               July 2003


                                               DECENNIAL CENSUS

                                               Lessons Learned for Locating and
Highlights of GAO-03-605, a report to the      Counting Migrant and Seasonal Farm
Ranking Minority Member, Committee on
Government Reform                              Workers



One of the U.S. Census Bureau’s                The Bureau used over a dozen operations to ensure a complete address list
(Bureau) long-standing challenges              and accurate maps for the 2000 Census. To the extent that the operations
has been counting migrant farm                 were properly implemented, their design appears to have been adequate for
workers. Although the Bureau                   identifying the hidden dwellings in which some migrant farm workers live,
goes to great lengths to locate                such as basement apartments. However, the operations were not as well
these individuals, its efforts are
often hampered by the
                                               suited to overcoming other difficulties associated with locating migrant farm
unconventional and hidden housing              workers such as language and literacy issues and a distrust of outsiders.
arrangements, distrust of outsiders,           These challenges were surmounted more effectively by relying on local
and language and literacy issues               advocacy groups and others in the community who knew where and how
often associated with this                     migrant farm workers lived, and could facilitate the Bureau’s access to those
population group. To help inform               areas.
the planning for the 2010 Census,
we were asked to review the                    The Bureau’s plans for the 2010 Census include an ambitious program to
adequacy of the Bureau’s                       make its maps more accurate. However, additional steps will be needed.
procedures for locating migrant                Local and regional census offices employed innovative practices during the
farm workers and their dwellings               2000 Census that could help improve the Bureau’s ability to locate migrant
during the 2000 Census, and the
steps, if any, that the Bureau can
                                               farm workers in 2010. They include partnering with state and local
take to improve those procedures.              governments earlier in the decade when many address-listing operations
                                               take place (during the 2000 Census, the Bureau’s 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
The Secretary of Commerce should               development activities). Other innovations included making use of address
direct the Bureau to (1) study the             information from local advocacy groups to help find migrant farm workers,
feasibility of staffing partnership            and using census and other demographic data strategically to plan
efforts at higher levels earlier in the
                                               operations and target resources to those areas with high numbers of migrant
decade to support address-listing
activities, (2) consider developing            farm workers.
protocols to allow the Bureau to
take advantage of the address                  Migrant Farm Worker Dwelling is Hidden Behind a House
information kept by advocacy
groups while preserving the
confidentiality and integrity of the
Bureau’s 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.
Contents



Letter                                                                                                   1
                            Results in Brief                                                             1
                            Background                                                                   3
                            Scope and Methodology                                                        4
                            The Bureau’s Listing Operations Addressed Some of the Barriers to
                              Locating Migrant and Seasonal Farm Workers but Significant
                              Challenges Remain                                                          6
                            Greater Use of Partnership Program and Innovative Practices Could
                              Improve the Bureau’s Ability to Locate Migrant Farm Workers in
                              the Future                                                                18
                            Conclusions                                                                 22
                            Recommendations for Executive Action                                        22
                            Agency Comments and Our Evaluation                                          23


Appendixes
             Appendix I:    Comments from the Secretary of Commerce                                     25
             Appendix II:   Related GAO Products on the Results of the 2000 Census and
                            Lessons Learned for a More Effective Census in 2010                         27


Table                       Table 1: Listing Operations Addressed Only Some of the Challenges
                                     Associated With Locating Migrant Farm Workers’
                                     Dwellings                                                          11


Figures                     Figure 1: Barriers to Locating and Counting Migrant Farm
                                      Workers                                                            4
                            Figure 2: Be Counted Forms in a California Grocery Store                     9
                            Figure 3: Timeline of Address List Building Operations                      10
                            Figure 4: Habitable Dwellings Could be Hard to Identify                     13
                            Figure 5: Single or Multi-unit Dwelling?                                    14
                            Figure 6: Migrant Labor Camp                                                15
                            Figure 7: Migrant Labor Camps Were Sometimes Fenced-in and
                                      Difficult to Access                                               16
                            Figure 8: Training Materials in McAllen, Tex., Arrived Too Late to
                                      Be Used                                                           17




                            Page i                                 GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
Contents




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Page ii                                       GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
A
United States General Accounting Office
Washington, D.C. 20548



                                    July 3, 2003                                                                     Leter




                                    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



                                    Page 1                                  GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
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.



Page 2                                 GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
             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.




             Page 3                                   GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
              Figure 1: Barriers to Locating and Counting Migrant Farm Workers

              1. Distrust of outsiders. As some migrant farm workers lack proper legal status, they often fear
                 talking to strangers, especially those representing the government.

              2. Unconventional housing arrangements. Migrant housing often consists of employer-provided
                 dormitories, cabins, and trailers arrayed in labor camps. In some cases, the camps are illegal
                 and unregistered, and thus would not appear on any official listings. In other cases, the camps
                 might be legal, but might not be registered in time for the census. Some camps are remote from
                 main roads and lack street addresses, while others have blocked access roads, barbed wire
                 fences, locked gates, and “No Trespassing” signs. Although landlords are legally required to let
                 census workers onto their property, employers’ concerns over reduced productivity, as well as
                 being penalized for hiring undocumented workers and violating housing codes, may make them
                 less than fully cooperative. Migrant workers are also known to reside in motels, and “hidden”
                 dwellings, such as sheds, illegally converted basement apartments, makeshift campgrounds,
                 and cars.

              3. Language and literacy. Many migrant farm workers know little, if any, English. Others have
                 low education levels, little or no reading skills, and may have difficulty completing official forms
                 and speaking to census workers who do not speak their language. As a result, making forms
                 and outreach material available in the workers’ native language may, in some instances, have a
                 limited impact.

              4. Mobility. Migrant farm workers regularly move in response to the seasonal demands of the
                 growers who employ them. They also return to visit their home countries. Their transient nature
                 increases the chances of being missed by the census.
              Source: Compiled from Census-Bureau-sponsored research, 1992-1997, unvetted or verified by GAO.




              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     Our objectives were to (1) review the adequacy of the Bureau’s operations
              for locating migrant farm workers and their dwellings during the 2000
Methodology   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



              Page 4                                                           GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
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.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.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



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).




Page 5                                         GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
                          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      The Bureau used more than a dozen operations to help ensure a complete
                          and accurate address list. Although the operations were designed to locate
Operations Addressed      various types of dwellings, not population groups as a whole, if properly
Some of the Barriers to   implemented their design appears to have been adequate for identifying the
                          hidden living arrangements in which a number of migrant and seasonal
Locating Migrant and      farm workers live. However, the operations were generally not as well
Seasonal Farm             suited to overcoming language and other challenges associated with
Workers but Significant   locating these population groups. Moreover, various implementation
                          problems hampered the Bureau’s activities at certain locations.
Challenges Remain

The Bureau’s Operations   The MAF consists of two types of dwellings: housing units such as single-
Could Not Overcome        family homes, apartments, and mobile homes and what the Bureau calls
                          “special places and group quarters.” A special place is an entity with which
Certain Challenges
                          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



                          Page 6                                  GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
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:



Page 7                                 GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
• 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).




Page 8                                 GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
Figure 2: Be Counted Forms in a California Grocery Store




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.




Page 9                                    GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
Figure 3: Timeline of Address List Building Operations


 MAF-building operation 1997                    1998                 1999                   2000
                            ON D J F M A M J J A S O N J D J F M A M J J A S O N D J F M A M J J A S O N D

 Postal Service file transfer

 Local update of census
 addresses

 Address listing


 Block canvassing


 Supplemental procedures

 Advanced visit/facility
 questionnaire

 Special places local
 update of census
 addresses

 Local knowledge update

 Update/leave and
 upate/enumerate

 Be Counted program

 Nonresponse follow-up

Source: GAO analysis of U.S. Census Bureau documents.




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.




Page 10                                                   GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
Table 1: Listing Operations Addressed Only Some of the Challenges Associated
With Locating Migrant Farm Workers’ Dwellings

                              Hidden and
MAF-building                  unconventional Distrust of      Language and
operation                     housing        outsiders        literacy     Mobility
Postal Service file
transfer
Local update of
census addresses
Address listing                        9
Block canvassing                       9
Supplemental
procedures                             9
Advance visit/facility
questionnaire                          9
Special places local
update of census
addresses                              9
Local knowledge
update                                 9                                                9
Update/leave and
update/enumerate                       9            9                 9
Be Counted
program                                9            9                 9                 9
Nonresponse
follow-up                              9            9                 9

9= Generally addressed challenge of locating migrant and seasonal farm workers’ dwellings

Source: GAO analysis of Census data.


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




Page 11                                            GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
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).




Page 12                                 GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
Figure 4: Habitable Dwellings Could be Hard to Identify




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.




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                              Figure 5: Single or Multi-unit Dwelling?




Implementation Difficulties   Implementation and logistical problems at some locations also hampered
Added to the Bureau’s         the Bureau’s efforts to locate migrant and seasonal farm workers. They
                              included the following:
Challenges in Finding
Migrant and Seasonal Farm     • Accessing labor camps and farms was often difficult. We found the
Workers                         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.




                              Page 14                                    GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
Figure 6: Migrant Labor Camp




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.




Page 15                               GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
Figure 7: Migrant Labor Camps Were Sometimes Fenced-in and Difficult to Access




• 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



Page 16                                  GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
   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




• 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.



Page 17                                     GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
                           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         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
Partnership Program    developed. However, the Bureau has launched an ambitious MAF/TIGER
and Innovative         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
Practices Could        tribal governments to obtain better geographic information; and modernize
Improve the Bureau’s   its geographic data processing operations. The Bureau’s longer term plans
Ability to Locate      include equipping census workers with Global Positioning System
                       receivers that use satellites to help them determine the precise locations of
Migrant Farm Workers   housing units and group quarters and validate the accuracy of each
in the Future          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.3
                         The city of Los Angeles (L.A.), for example, directed Department of
                         Water and Power employees, sanitation, and many other city workers to


                       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).




                       Page 18                                      GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
    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.4


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).




Page 19                                     GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
• 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.



Page 20                                GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
    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,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.




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).




Page 21                                      GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
                      • 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   To ensure a more complete count of migrant and seasonal farm workers,
                      we recommend that the Secretary of Commerce direct the Bureau to take
Executive Action      the following actions as part of its planning process for the 2010 Census.




                      Page 22                                 GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
                      • 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   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
Our Evaluation        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




                      Page 23                                 GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
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




Page 24                                  GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
Appendix I

Comments from the Secretary of Commerce                           AA
                                                                   ppp
                                                                     ep
                                                                      ned
                                                                        n
                                                                        x
                                                                        id
                                                                         e
                                                                         x
                                                                         Iis




             Page 25       GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
Appendix I
Comments from the Secretary of Commerce




Page 26                                   GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
Appendix II

Related GAO Products on the Results of the
2000 Census and Lessons Learned for a More
Effective Census in 2010                                                                 Appendx
                                                                                               Ii




              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.




              Page 27                             GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
           Appendix II
           Related GAO Products on the Results of the
           2000 Census and Lessons Learned for a More
           Effective Census in 2010




           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)   Page 28                                      GAO-03-605 Locating Migrant Farm Workers
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