Hard To Count

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Brian Lehrer Show “10 Questions that Count” census project kicks off with a conversation co-produced with Feet in Two Worlds. Turns out, New Yorkers are particularly hard-to-count: today’s guests explore why and what’s being done to reach local immigrant populations. Plus, an interactive look at some surprising census data from around the New York City area.

Guests will include:

Stacey Cumberbatch, coordinator at the NYC 2010 Census Office
Angelo Falcón, chair of the Census Advisory Committee on the Hispanic Population
Valeria Treves, executive director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment
Rong Xiaoqing, reporter for the Sing Tao Daily
Seema Agnani, executive director of Chhaya Community Development
Rafael Dominguez, NY Partnership coordinator for the U.S. Census Bureau New York Region


Seema Agnani, Stacey Cumberbatch, Rafael Dominguez, Angelo Falcon, Valeria Treves and Rong Xiaoqing

Comments [30]

Keith from NJ

I was surprised to hear one of the Census employees state on the show that people must be counted where they live on April 1 (it was in response to the question about kids in "sleep-away" college). This is not correct! In fact, the Census specifically says to identify yourself at your "usual residence", which is defined as the place where the person lives and sleeps MOST OF THE TIME. It does not matter where someone registers their car or votes and completing the census questionnaire in a different location will have no effect on car insurance or voter registration. Snowbirds (people who live in one state but spend the winter in another state with a warmer climate), college students, military personnel, etc. are to be counted at the residence where they live most of the year. This is not necessarily where they are on April 1. See

Mar. 11 2010 06:38 PM
Mike from Inwood

Jerry from ny asks: "How much can you twist the law? Folks who are breaking the law by staying in the U.S. illegally and many other laws then participate in goverment survey as if that doesn't matter?"

Maybe you think the illegals deserve no services, sewage, garbage removal, etc, but that's beside the point. The law says that everyone should be counted. Change the law, don't break it.

Mar. 11 2010 12:57 AM
Mike from Inwood

Calls'em As I Sees'em from Langley, VA asks,”Why is a not-for-profit RADIO station wasting precious contributor dollars on a video stream and even this web site? If you had more on air democracy, you wouldn’t need these exclusive bells and whistles. People listen to radio because they like radio, not video and not web junk. Besides, since many poor people are Black and Hispanic, all the extra services provided through the web site DISCRIMINATE against those folks who don’t have computers and I-Pods™. It’s bad enough that WNYC has so few people of “color” at any level, let alone none in high profile positions. Can’t we all just listen together?”

Calls-em: As a not-for profit, WNYC can define its mission any way it wants. I’m not sure what you mean by more “on air democracy”. Perhaps you’d enjoy Pacifica Radio more. The voices there are less mainstream.

The bell and whistle of this website allows all of us to comment, when there wouldn’t have been time for all of us to speak. There’s probably more age discrimination than ethnic or racial. It might surprise you to know that marketing data indicate that minority kids often have the latest in cell phone communications; they often purchase a web-capable phone instead of a more expensive laptop. Look around on the subway; minority kids have more equipment than old White people.

Mar. 11 2010 12:52 AM
Mike from Inwood

None of these people mentioned this possibility, nor accounted for it. Any theory estimating undercounts will have similar biases deeply imbedded within it. This is why the Census Bureau should not let sampling replace an actual count; whatever biases are imbedded in the underlying theory will be expressed in the count. Count everyone you can, but count them, don't use your guess as opposed to mine.

Mar. 11 2010 12:33 AM
Calls'em As I Sees'em from Langley, VA

To: the "truth"

That's quite the name you picked out for yourself - the "truth." Sort of the same mind set as some of "leaders" today. Unfortunately for America, the “truth” is the new “lies.”

Poor people in NYC are mostly Black and Hispanic. That's what WNYC tells us everyday of the week. Isn't that true?

Lol - on the massive voting fraud in 2008. You have a future disbarred attorney and prison inmate named Eric Holder who won't even prosecute armed Black Panthers for intimidating voters at polling booths, so again lol. The campaign financing fraud was even bigger and accounted for the "President’s" first and last victory.

Speaking of the Bama - his real legal name is Barry Soetoro, he only goes by Barack Hussein Obama - so chew on that for a while.

Have a nice day. Enjoy the nice weather. Get out and get some fresh air, it will do you good.

Mar. 10 2010 12:08 PM
the truth! from BKNY

Also, CALLS 'EM, that is President Obama, it is amazing to me how you people blatantly and openly disrespect the President in general but President Obama in particular.

Mar. 10 2010 11:31 AM
Calls'em As I Sees'em from Langley, VA

With so many groups with political agendas campaigning to count folks who shouldn’t be here and who don't want to be counted it sounds like this is an invitation to fraud on a massive scale.

More importantly, the Bama admin has already signaled that it will "correct" all undercounts in “traditionally undercounted” urban and immigrant a/k/a Democrat areas to reflect the "true" count.

I fully expect that the final census "count" will be 10% to 20% higher than expected, with most of that falling in districts expected to go Democrat. It sounds like this year’s census will be as bad as the vote in Ohio, where community "activists” took homeless people from county to county to vote again and again.

PS - Why is a not-for-profit RADIO station wasting precious contributor dollars on a video stream and even this web site? If you had more on air democracy, you wouldn’t need these exclusive bells and whistles. People listen to radio because they like radio, not video and not web junk. Besides, since many poor people are Black and Hispanic, all the extra services provided through the web site DISCRIMINATE against those folks who don’t have computers and I-Pods™. It’s bad enough that WNYC has so few people of “color” at any level, let alone none in high profile positions. Can’t we all just listen together?

Mar. 10 2010 11:21 AM
the truth! from BKNY

u r never going to get an accurate account - might well up the number 20% or more!

Mar. 10 2010 10:56 AM
Stephen from Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

Please explain the American Community Survey.

i received this several months ago and thought it was the census itself.

Mar. 10 2010 10:55 AM
Lynne Algrant from Englewood, NJ

The names are so important. When I was working on a family history project with my mother, finding our ancestors names on census forms was thrilling.

Think of all the history the census gives us as well!


Mar. 10 2010 10:54 AM
Kristine from Westchester

The panelist commented on why counting everyone is important but since the census count affects the way federal funds, collected from taxes, are being apportioned, is it fair to count many of the undocumented workers that aren't paying taxes or increase representation for individuals who can't legally vote?

Mar. 10 2010 10:51 AM
peri from manhattan

I'm a legal immigrant, educated, etc. I've been in this country 30 years, and I've never been counted. And I've lived in regular, ordinary households. I get voting mail, and the rest of it, but for some reason census has never made it to my household. I guess this year I'll try to seek them out.

Mar. 10 2010 10:49 AM
Connie from Westchester

Now I see my second comment....that's SOME progress! Still no video, however.

Mar. 10 2010 10:47 AM

I think the reason the Constitution remained silent about counting citizens v. non-citizens is that it may have been skirting the slavery/indentured servant issue at the time. I'm clearly not a history expert but there were definitely built in loop-holes to count (at least partially) persons that were not even considered fully human least of all citizens entitled to citizen's rights.

I think, also, the immigration issue has existed since the nation's inception. If you think about public schooling, police and firemen services, even the development of the house and been influenced by non-citizens being counted or not counted. I don't want to extend this into an argument about whether or not they should have access to these publicly funded services, I'm just saying that it's always been a part of the census.

Mar. 10 2010 10:40 AM
Jerry from ny

How much can you twist the law? Folks who are breaking the law by staying in the U.S. illegally and many other laws then participate in goverment survey as if that doesn't matter?

Mar. 10 2010 10:39 AM
Manhattan Mark from Manhattan

The response to the question about counting undocumented residents (i.e., illegal aliens), was inane. If the constitution is silent on counting "citizens" it was because that was assumed. Is the census bureau going into hotel rooms and counting foreign visitors? No, because this is the very concept of "alien." They are in the U.S. but not part of the U.S.; they are not living in the U.S. When the illegal aliens arrived in the U.S., they did so on the basis that they were "visiting" the U.S. Technically, they still are. If they are "living" here, they are doing so because they broke immigration law. That is why they are called "illegal aliens." Why is this so hard to understand.

Mar. 10 2010 10:31 AM
Kerri Allen from Park Slope, BKLYN

The official Census form is only available in SIX languages. There are guides available in about 150 languages, for those to fill out alongside the English-language form line by line. More info is at But the only bilingual forms are in Spanish & English.

Mar. 10 2010 10:27 AM
Edward from NJ

The SNL sketch is from April 8, 2000.

Mar. 10 2010 10:26 AM

I'm in JC, and I'll tell you that it is at LEAST as much a propblem here as in NYC. I live on a block with homes that are being sold for $400K and rent-controlled apartments overloaded with undocumented workers. Less than a five minute walk away is a crack house and the spot where in 2009 a massive shoot-out resulted in at least one police officer dead and several wounded. None of the folks in JC that I've spoken to who are unemployed will apply for jobs with the census because there are so many many places in JC that we are scared to go into. The people in those areas are just not going to be counted.

Mar. 10 2010 10:25 AM
SteveR from Manhattan

What I find distrurbing is that there is (or needs to be) so much discussion and assurance to convince people that their illegal or illicit activites or status will remain so, so they should feel comfortable participatiing in the census. Does no one see the irony in this, or feel the least bit concerned about the nature of these appeals?

Mar. 10 2010 10:24 AM

I love that revisionist line of utter BULLSHIZZLE about the Constitution counting ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS, the reality is that wasn't an issue at the time of it's drafting.

Mar. 10 2010 10:21 AM
Derek from 42nd St.

Is the census needed? The Census according the US Constitution is mandated to apportion the representatives by State. Why has the US Congress not expanded its membership since the 1910 census and why did the Congress freeze the membership at 435 in the Reapportionment Act of 1929. The congressional distinct sizes have tripled in population (212,000 to 650,000) while the Congressional House membership has been stagnant at 435. If this is truly a representative government we need to increase the House Membership. This also affects the Electoral College and Presidential elections.
Also the Method of Equal Proportions is a disaster for apportionment and an equal divisor method would be ideal with a fixed number of people per Representative.
Please visit and for more information.

Mar. 10 2010 10:21 AM
Tony from Santa Clara, CA

Can I volunteer for the long form census?

Mar. 10 2010 10:18 AM
Suzie from Manhattan

How does caller 'Willa' know the people walking kids in their strollers are undocumented?

Mar. 10 2010 10:17 AM
Robert from NYC

Well then if someone is receiving let's say food stamps or SSI benefits at a particular address and then the Census show no such person at that address then there should be some comparison of these records against the Census report and find out if, in fact, there is someone with the SSI benefits name and no name registered with the Census Bureau! This should clear up some serious problems both with Census records and the other government agencies' records.

Mar. 10 2010 10:16 AM
Rachel from Sunset Park, Brooklyn

I live in a 2 family house and received 2 notices for the census. What if there is a 2 family converted to a 3 family illegally? Will the Census Bureau know to send 3 forms? Or will they not be counted?

Mar. 10 2010 10:16 AM
Matthew from Chinatown Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn

How does someone who is homeless/semi-homeless get counted? Can I go to a census center somewhere and just fill out the forms there? Thank you.

Mar. 10 2010 10:15 AM
Alan Wright from Jersey City, NJ

At the top of the show, Brian mentioned the New York "vicinity" as being similarly subject to low census counts for immigrant communities.

What differences do we see between New York-based efforts in, for example, NE Queens and New Jersey-based efforts in Jersey City, Newark, Paterson, and even Hackensack or Edison? Each of NJ's large northern cities has different immigrant groups in often less-dense pockets.

Typically, NY has more support for immigrant groups through existing infrastructure, advocacy groups, and even political will through City Hall and City Council representation.

In that sense, a focus on New York MAY be more efficient. But how much does it put New York boroughs at an advantage over small cities and suburbs?

Mar. 10 2010 10:13 AM
John Celardo from Fanwood, NJ

I worked for many years for the National Archives (located across the street from your new home on Varick Street), the custodian of Federal census records, among many others. Part of my job was speaking to groups about the records we had, and how they could be used for historical, family history and demographic research.

The information contained in the census is incredibly valuable. It’s also important to remember that Federal census records are not available for use by the public for 72 years. Only general demographic and statistical information about the population is available before the 72 year period. With this in mind, regardless of party politics, it pains me to hear public figures and friends say they think the census is somehow bad for the country. If we give in to the calls for restrictions on the questions asked on the census forms, we’ll rob future generations of historians and just plain curious people of the ability to find out how we lived. I haven’t heard anyone stand up for history in all of the loud cries for personal privacy.

Mar. 10 2010 10:07 AM
Robert from NYC

Why does anyone want to 'watch' a radio show? What's to see?! Isn't that a waste of supporters' money in these bad times?

Mar. 10 2010 10:02 AM

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