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More Than Just Overcoming Language and Literacy Barriers: Non-response Followup Census Enumeration of Chinese in San Francisco Chinatown

Dawn Lee Tu, University of San Francisco 
*Laurie Schwede, U.S. Census Bureau 

Keywords: Asian, Chinese, urban, ethnic enclave, Census coverage, 2010 Census, ethnography, qualitative, race/ethnic minorities, hard-to-count populations, Census Coverage Measurement Survey

“Hard to reach” groups counter-intuitively can be found in densely-populated, urban areas. In particular, Chinese in San Francisco Chinatown are are hard to reach for a host of reasons that go beyond language and literary barriers. This paper is based on a 2010 U.S. Census evaluation entitled, “Comparative Ethnographic Studies of Enumeration Methods and Coverage in Race/Ethnic Groups” which documented enumeration methods during Non-response Followup operations (in-person interviews with households for which a completed mailout form had not been processed by the cutoff date). Findings show that more attention must be paid to mismatched and use of multiple dialects during interviews; complex living situations shaped by extended kinship ties, bilocality, and transnational movement; how cultural “insider knowledge” is used to gain access and coax information; women’s practice of retaining surname after marriage; and dependence on proxy interviewees as informants. This paper concludes with implications and suggestions for new research to reduce differential miscounts of hard to reach minority populations.

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