By April Xu, Sing Tao Daily
Editor’s note: This is the English translation of the original story, which was first published in Chinese for Sing Tao Daily. This version has been updated and edited, with permission from the author(s) and publication(s), for length and clarity.
TRENTON, NJ — If you have already responded to the 2020 Census but you didn’t do it right, chances are that you would get an unexpected knock at your door sometime between August 11 and Sept. 30.
“Enumerators may still visit households that filled out the census questionnaire but the information provided is incomplete — or that the address doesn’t match with the existing record,” said Howard Shih, research and policy director at the Asian American Federation. “That’s what we’ve been hearing from the field.”
This surprising visit from enumerators has recently sparked confusion, according to census advocates, especially among households that have responded to the census on time and therefore are not expecting for an enumerator to show up at their doorsteps.
“If two questionnaires were filled out by one household, for example, and the Census Bureau does not have your contact phone number to verify by calling or sending you a text message, an enumerator may show up to check the accuracy of your responses,” said Shih.
Some households are skeptical about the revalidation process, saying it is an unnecessary waste of time and resources for both the households and enumerators.
Over the next 27 days, the U.S. Census Bureau is sending official census takers into New Jersey neighborhoods, as well as other locations across the country.
The national door-to-door census enumeration officially started August 11. In hard-to-count areas in New Jersey, several local community organizations are making their final push for census participation, urging residents to open the door if enumerators pay them a visit.
A number of hard-to-count cities in New Jersey still have low self-response rates, as compared to final self-response rates in the 2010 census. As of August 28, for example, Jersey City shows a 52% response rate, while the national self-response rate is 64.7%.
Community leaders in New Jersey have recently increased their outreach efforts to immigrant households that haven’t yet completed the census forms.
“We have been in collaboration with local groups, ethnic media, and elected officials in New Jersey. We have joined in-person events at churches and grocery stores to use their network in order to spread the word about the enumeration process,” Shih added.
Other groups, like Advocates for Children of New Jersey, have distributed in-language census materials to immigrant centers, hoping to help those immigrant families with limited English proficiency fill out the census questionnaire.
Enumerators face challenges
Exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, the enumeration process has had a series of challenges since it began last month.
Some enumerators have trouble getting into buildings that have security locks. Or, many households are wary of talking to enumerators.
“In many cases, enumerators have to deal with landlords and building management companies in order to get into the property,” Shih said. “That’s an added hardship for the census takers.”
Virginia L. Ng, former president of Organization of Chinese Americans-New Jersey Chapter (OCA) said that the COVID-19 crisis may be the biggest factor that makes people hesitant to open their door.
“Census takers will be wearing masks and following health guidelines for everyone’s safety. People shouldn’t be worried,” she noted.
Since the 2020 Census kickoff in March, OCA has hosted online seminars in both Chinese and English to educate the Chinese immigrant community in New Jersey and New York about the importance and timeline of the census.
Ng emphasized that enumerators won’t and are not allowed by law to ask personal information, including immigration status, bank account information, Social Security Number and annual income.
“It’s a short questionnaire’; it’s quick and easy,” she said.
Lisa Moore, assistant regional census manager at the U.S. Census Bureau, noted that all enumerators carry a government-issued ID with their name, photograph, a Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date.
If residents want to verify the enumerator’s identity, Moore said, they can call the Census Bureau at (800) 923-8282.
Some enumerators can be creative and inventive to get information.
“To households that are worried about opening the door, we’ve heard from the Census Bureau that door knockers would say, ‘Here, call me on my Census phone number,’ just to assure these households that they are from the Bureau,” Shih said.
Other enumerators would go back to their cars, talk to a member of the household on the phone and take their information.
“There are a lot of creative ways to get their information, if people are afraid to open the door,” Shih added.
The majority of households that failed to respond to the census by April 1, 2020, according to Census Bureau officials, will most likely get a knock on the door from enumerators.
“A big challenge is that a lot of people don’t know that the census is still going on,” Shih said. “In 2010, the census ended in July. This year, it will end by the end of September. It’s definitely a new situation.”
This story was part of the 2020 Census: New Jersey Media Counts program, an initiative of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University.
- Virginia L. Ng, immediate past president of the Organization of Chinese Americans New Jersey Chapter, said people shouldn’t be worried about opening doors for enumerators, “Census takers will be wearing masks and following local guidelines for everyone’s safety.” Photo credit: U.S. Census Bureau.