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Tipsheet

Some Census Workers Who Reportedly Falsified Information During 2020 Count Were Not Fired

AP Photo/Michelle R. Smith

Some census takers who falsified information during the 2020 count did not have their work redone fully, were not fired in a timely manner and received bonuses, according to the Associated Press.

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“The findings released Friday by the Office of Inspector General raise concerns about possible damage to the quality of the once-a-decade head count that determines political power and federal funding,” the report said.

Reportedly, some census takers were pressured to enter false information into a computer logging system about homes they had not visited as the census drew to a close. College students living off-campus at colleges and universities were likely undercounted, since students were sent home from school at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The census started around the same time.

Census supervisors were able to track their takers’ work in real time. Supervisors would get alerts when actions “raised red flags about accuracy,” such as a census taker recording information while at a different address or if a census taker conducted an interview in a few minutes. Some workers were sent back to people’s homes to conduct re-interviews.

The AP noted that the Inspector General’s report found that many of the alerts were not rectified:

The Inspector General’s probe concluded that some alerts weren’t being properly resolved, some re-interviews weren’t properly conducted and that the work of some census takers whose work had been flagged for falsifying data had not been reworked to fix its accuracy. In fact, some census takers whose work was flagged for falsifications were given more cases, weren’t fired and were reassigned to other operations, the report said.

Of the 1,400 census takers who were designated “hard fails” because questions about the accuracy of their work, only 300 were fired for misconduct or unsatisfactory performance. Of the 1,400 “hard fail” census takers, 1,300 of them received bonuses ranging from $50 to $1,600 each, the report said.

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In response, Census Bureau Director Robert Santos said that “we asserted that the findings could not and should not be presented as a conclusive assessment of overall census quality.”

The report from the Inspector General noted that the undercounting of college students for states and localities is “potentially far-reaching.”

Under Census Bureau rules, college and university students should have been counted where they spent the most time, either at on-campus housing or off-campus apartments, even if they were sent home because of the pandemic. Most schools didn’t provide the Census Bureau with off-campus student data, and the bureau had to use a last-resort, less-accurate statistical tool to fill in the information gaps on more than 10% of the off-campus student population when they were given the information, the Inspector General’s report said.

Schools often didn’t provide the data because they didn’t have information on off-campus students or because of privacy concerns. The Inspector General recommends passage of legislation that would require schools to provide needed information in future head counts.

Earlier this month, the city of Boston challenged its census figures, stating that the census missed thousands of students and inmates. 

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“Boston deserves an accurate census count across every neighborhood and community,” MAyor Michelle Wu said in a statement. “This count is the foundation to assess the needs of all of our communities, ensuring that Boston receives crucial federal resources, and it should reflect our full numbers.”

Other cities, such as Austin, Detroit and Memphis have also challenged their census results.

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