Detail from "the second line," a painting by Bob Graham. For more about the artist, click here.

Online Program

Mobilizing Hard-To-Count Populations to Fully Participate in Censuses and Surveys

*Tim Olson, US Census Bureau 
*Arturo Vargas, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials 
Jerome Williams, Rutgers University 

Keywords: partnership, community mobilization campaign, outreach, hard to count populations, language difficulty, political campaign, U.S. Census Bureau

Mobilizing hard-to-count populations to participate in censuses and surveys requires the data collection organization to implement a comprehensive community engagement campaign that effectively motivates all populations to participate. This chapter reviews principles used in large-scale data collection operations and other action-oriented initiatives that lead to fuller participation. Many pitfalls exist, including language difficulties, mistrust in the data collection sponsor, and understanding how as individuals and a community they can benefit. Other challenges include structural barriers created by the enumeration process, overcoming negative perceptions, and fear.

Examples from the United States 2010 Census will illustrate many of these principles, including the engagement of more than 257,000 organizations, the hiring of nearly 4,000 outreach staff with linguistic skills in 146 languages, and a sustained messaging campaign via Spanish-language media. Preliminary analysis indicates these efforts successfully improved the overall census quality and response rate and reduced the differential undercount of traditionally underrepresented populations.

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