Director of Census 2000 speaks

Lets take a minute to think about how America lives, Dr. Kenneth
Prewitt, director of Census 2000, said to a gathering of students at Boston
We have people living in igloos, houseboats, tree houses and cabins in
the woods, Prewitt said. America is not a neat little row of urban houses.

The census is two things: a count and assigning geography, Prewitt
explained. The purpose of the census is to let the government know where
At its peak, Census 2000 will be the third largest advertiser in the United
States. It has poured millions into making sure people know its out there
and also making sure that people acknowledge they must respond. However,
there are several demographic groups, such as Native Americans and Latinos
Prewitt blames two things for an undercount: attitude and demographics.
Demographically, residents who do not live in one place, such as traveling
salesmen who primarily live out of a suitcase, are undercounted along with
people who have no where to live at all. Likewise, Native Americans have
been previously undercounted because the isolation of reservations makes it
difficult and expensive for the Census Bureau to get a count.
Attitudinal problems affect people who fear the government, such as illegal
aliens, and people who dislike the government.

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Were trying to talk the country into responding and fulfilling their civic
responsibility, Prewitt said, given the sharp decline in citizen response
since the censuses of 1960 and 1970.

Census 2000 is not just the governments scientific exercise or collecting
data to redistribute funds and power; this year, the Census Bureau is in
partnership with 90,000 community leaders across the country, and the Bureau
and the community are sharing the responsibility of getting the right numbers
in responses. Prewitt admitted that management is more complicated, but local
leadership may get responses from difficult to reach demographic and racial
Census 2000 is also different because it is controversial. It is the first
census in American history that gives people the opportunity to identify
themselves specifically and multiracially. Prewitt maintained that, given
the racial tensions that still exist in America, geographically detailed
racial data is important to defending against discrimination. Racial data
will also help reform race-based social policy.


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