View Full Version : Did anybody work on the 2000 Census?

Brett Marie
04-26-2012, 06:22 PM
I'm wondering if anyone can tell me about being a US census worker in the year 2000.

What did you do? Did you get some sort of ID to show to people whose doors you knocked on? Did they give you any forms to use in the field? And, crucially, did you have to give the ID/forms back when it was over?

04-26-2012, 07:06 PM
I worked on a documentary about the census takers. And yes, they had ID, and yes, they had forms with them, and yes, they had to return the ID when the job was complete.

But I'll let an actual worker weigh in with the specifics for their location.

Oops- my mistake - The Doc I worked on was for the more recent 2010 census. I can't speak definitively for the 2000 but I suspect the requirements were similar.

This link might help.


05-05-2012, 12:24 AM
Man, I actually did work on the Census in 2000. I'm trying to remember now..

ID - I was given a "generic" ID from the Cenus Burea. IIRC, it did NOT have a picture on it. I remember it looked pretty cheezy and I think it was essentially just a business card type card with a place to type or write my name. I don't have it anymore, but I can't recall if I turned it in or just lost it.

What did I do - You have to remember that 90% of the Census is done by mail. The forms are mailed out and most are returned. The only time anyone comes to your door is when forms are not returned from a specific address or the Census has a reason to want to canvas a particluar neighborhood.

For me, my job was to take a list of addresses in a certain area and then physically drive to each location and leave a Census form in a plastic bag on their door. These were addresses that either did not return forms or were believed to have been missed in the mailing for some reason. (New construction, etc)

I wasn't actually supposed to ring the bell or have any contact with the people, just leave the forms. I was told to ID myself if asked. I wasn't to take any completed forms, just tell them to mail them in if they asked.

I also had to stick a label on each form I dropped off and record the very long number on each label on the master list of addresses I had next to that address. None of this was computerized. It was a paper form and we used these crappy little low-bid government pencils to write the really long series of numbers on the form. I was amazed at how low tech and buecratic the whole operation was.

I had a supervisor who "ran" four or five people at my level. He'd been hired in and trained a few months ealier than I had. He'd meet us at a local diner where we'd turn in our completed lists and get new assignments. Usually he'd meet us one at a time as we completed assignments, about once a week or so.

My understanding was that the next step was to be several weeks/months later with live Census takers knocking on the doors of the people who still didn't return a Census form even after we left one hanging on a bag on their doorknob. I wasn't involved in that as I'd found a real job by then and quit the Census. (We were all basically hired as temporary workers and paid by the hour).

As far as keeping forms, it wouldn't be hard to keep a few, especially if they were either blank forms or generic forms with no info filled in. They may have tracked the forms for the next step more closely, I don't know. I did wind up with probably 200 of those plastic bags marked "US Census 2000" that we used to hang on doors. I used 'em as trash bags for my car for quite awhile before I ran out. (Wished I would have saved one or two now, but at the time I was sick of them).

EDIT: A quick Google search says the 2000 compliance rate was 73% overall. I would have thought it was higher than that.

Here's a couple good articles



05-05-2012, 02:00 PM
I did the UK equivilent but I doubt the processes are that different...

I was given a laminated photo ID and a bag contaning pens, clipboard, maps of the streets I was covering and the forms. My role was not to coinduct the census (everyone gets a form through the post and are legally required to fill it out and post it back using the freepost envelope, though not everyone does) but to conduct 'post census surveys' which basically seemed to amount to asking a small section of the population the same questions that were on the census again for no readily apparent reason that was adequetly explained to me in terms other than 'because the government says so'.

We were given a patch to work on and had to satisfactorily show bonafide attempts to visit every property on your list to your line managers satisfaction. On one occasion this involved me having to take my supervisor to a street and show him that a number of the properties listed on my patch not only did not exist but were clearly located on a patch of wasteground that had been overgrown for at least a couple of decades... only then would he believe me when I said 'that house does not exist'. Apparently the government property lists are woefully out of date in some areas...

05-06-2012, 01:56 AM
I worked on Census 2000 first in the local Minneapolis office answering phone calls and then was promoted to what they called a recruiterrecruiter. As a recruiter, I set up up testing sites and administered test to those who wanted to do door to door. I had an ID, but it was a simple one which I wrote my name in on a blank area of a plastic card. We were supposed to give it back at the end, but I don't know if my card was different from the field workers.

The during last few weeks before our office closed, I took it upon myself to organized a day of little seminars to help people find new jobs with a mini jobfair. I brought in job coordinators from the unemployment office, companies looking to hire.

I still have one of my IDs, but it was never used in the field. I also kept a card that I could use to park anywhere, as a souvenir. I never used it on or off the job, but it said 'Official Census Worker,' on it.

Brett Marie
05-06-2012, 07:32 PM
Perfect! This all helps me set up a plot point properly. Thank you so much, Writeknight, Trebor1415, areteus, and StephanieFox!

To everyone else, I think I have enough info here. No need to add more on my account. Thanks again to everyone who helped me out!