Census Bureau gears up for 2000 | RecordCourier.com

Census Bureau gears up for 2000

by Linda Hiller

At the last census, Nevada was the sixth worst undercounted state in the country, according to a Census Bureau representative.

“This may not sound like anything to worry about, but considering the explosive growth in Nevada, we have more to gain in the 2000 census from an accurate count than any other state,” said Dave Byerman, the bureau’s chief government liaison for Nevada.

Byerman spoke to more than 75 people at the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Authority monthly luncheon, held Wednesday at Sharkey’s Nugget.

He said that the undercounting in 1990 cost Nevada at least $200,000 in loss of federal programs and revenues. Byerman said that each of the estimated 272 million people residing in the United States brings in $670 per year.

“So if we even miss one family of four, the state loses more than $25,000 in that 10-year census period,” he said. “As a state, we really do have a stake in the census process.”

Apportionment – the number of representatives assigned to each state – to the Congressional House of Representatives is also based on census numbers, he said, Reapportionment could be due in Nevada because of the last decade’s growth.

Nevada now sends two representatives – on par with Hawaii, Idaho, Wyoming, South and North Dakota – while California sends the most, at 52.

n What’s wrong? Byerman said there are many reasons for an inaccurate count of residents in any state. One reason may be that people don’t want to be counted because of fear that information they give the census takers will not be confidential.

“The Census Bureau takes confidentiality very seriously,” he said. “We keep the forms under seal for 72 years.”

Another reason for the undercounts, is related to counting minorities and immigrants, he said.

“In 1990, we missed 2.4 percent of the population, and 1.9 percent of those were white, 6.7 percent were Latino, 8.7 percent were African American and 12.5 percent were Native American,” he said. “We’ve had abysmal undercounting among minorities.”

Illegal immigrants are counted in a census just like legal immigrants, Byerman said. In states with a high population of illegal immigrants, the fact that they may not get counted hurts that state in the long run, he said.

“If we don’t count illegal aliens, then states like Arizona and California lose out,” he said.

n Grass-roots campaign. The census is taken every 10 years – the last one was in 1990. Between the actual census taking, the staff of the Census Bureau, under the U.S. Department of Commerce, shrinks to a “core group of bureaucrats.”

But when staffing gears up, Byerman said, it becomes the largest federal government agency, employing around 800,000 people.

“That’s one in 300 Americans,” he said.

This year the census bureau will be attempting to make the count a ‘locally-based, neighborhood, grass-roots campaign,” using counters in their own communities – including minority and immigrant communities – to reach out to their neighbors and count them.

“Here in Nevada, it’s about Nevadans counting Nevadans for the sake of Nevada,” Byerman said. “We’re trying to get local leaders and business leaders to do the job, and we’re encouraging them to participate, especially in dealing with counting minority people.”

Byerman, whose home office is in Sparks, said he is willing to speak to any group to get the message out about how important the 2000 census is.

“No other state has more to gain than we do in Nevada,” he said.

In early March, mailers will be going to every address in Nevada, Byerman said, with questions in five languages. Some 85 percent of the people will get the short form, consisting of six questions, and 15 percent of the mailers will include the long form, with 55 questions to fill out. Addresses that don’t return mailers will be visited by a census worker.

“In 1990, Nevada came in dead last in returned mailers,” Byerman said. “The national average was 85 percent, and we had 58 percent.”

Approximately 4,000 Nevadans will be hired for the 2000 census, with most of the hiring taking place in northern Nevada because of the rural, spread-out nature of the area. The projected pay rate will be between $11-13 per hour, Byerman said, and anyone interested in helping should call 784-7420.

Byerman’s number in Sparks is (775) 626-8849, fax (775) 626-8851 and his e-mail address is dbyerman@netscape.net.