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This is a federal case. From Washington D.C. the National Educational radio network brings you an examination of current issues facing our nation and its capital city. Here is an E.R. and correspondent John sometime in the next year Fred clay brokers farm will cease to be a tourist attraction all because they took a census in 1970 as a result of the 1960 census. The center of population the balance point for the United States was in the middle of a farm that's been the home of the Klan Bowker family since 1890. About six miles northwest of Centralia Illinois near the town of shadow. They put her on the dining hall for out their front plate putting concrete on hold top of that. So when the people come to visit the center of population there's really nothing they can see the only way to
test your graphic marker thought here by their head where they had the power that time would have what they called it already. I haven't signed up I wrote but they found something. Mr. Clive Barker's says he and his wife have met hundreds of people from many states in the past decade including a lot of school teachers coming to see the center of population. What's being raised on the location of the center is population now on the red clover to 450 for a card game we play our we don't know yet how far the new center will be moving but we do know the direction westward. That's how the people have been moving. But we knew that even before and now in general terms and we had a pretty good idea of how many people were in the U.S. to Y then of census the single most important reason lies in the Constitution Article 1 provides for an enumeration so that seats in the
House of Representatives may be a portion to each state. And it says such a headcount should take place every 10 years. So beginning in 1790 we've had 19 of these national roll calls. And each time the process has gotten a little more complicated. There's a clock of sorts in the lobby of the Commerce Department in downtown Washington and another one of the Census Bureau's headquarters out in the suburbs. But they show people not the time the Census Bureau's minute by minute estimate of the current population. On April 1st of last year the clock showed about two hundred four point eight million people. The final results of the 1970 census were announced last fall. They showed an April 1st population of two hundred four million seven hundred sixty five thousand seven hundred seventy commerce secretary Mary stands gave the report to President Nixon one day ahead of the December 1st legal deadline. And he was unequivocal about his view of the results. We'll stand on our statement if this is the most accurate sentence ever taken.
But between April 1st and December 1st all was not roses for the Census Bureau. As one official put it this is the age of challenge. And we certainly got challenged more than twelve hundred complaints rolled into Washington all with a common theme. We was robbed mayors county executives even governors charged that the figures for their years were ridiculously low. But Bureau Director George Hay Brown expected this not the natural kind of thing because if you're the mayor of a town you're responsible for making sure that there were no mistake them with Santa. Because the census is the basis for transferring funds from the federal government to the state from the state down to the minutest parties and there are a great many rights and privileges for a particular community that are related strictly to the census figures. A mayor or county supervisor or responsible person must know that the count was accurate. We received our lives things in the same spirit that they were given I think the press seem to feel
that this was a matter of a difference of opinion there was no difference about the desirability of having it accurate so the complaints were accepted. What happened then. We asked Dr. Conrad 20 birth associate director of the Census Bureau. We took all these complaints seriously. We went out we followed them up. We had many instances we said. Tell us why you think the situation is most difficult. We gave them the counts of housing units there. We worked with them in checking back to see if only housing units had been counted. Let's take a typical example. Baltimore Maryland mayor Thomas Dulles Sandra was incensed when he was given the preliminary census figures for his city. I talked with Dan Zak n e his special assistant when the mayor first heard about what was going to lose some 40000 to 50000 residents that we had in the 1960 census. He became a bit concerned because it means a tremendous loss in dollars federal dollars in state aid to the city of Baltimore.
Now I don't have to tell you how our dependant cities are becoming on the federal dollar. So at a conference being held by the United States Conference of Mayors National League of Cities the mayor appealed to the mayors at them at that particular meeting to endorse his plea that backed him or become the city to do a study of the census. The 1970 census to use our study as a pilot project and then if we could prove that there was a discrepancy between our count a local county and the federal count that we would then appeal to you know Congressman Thomas Wilson too. At least consider our findings and then maybe hold up the submission of the census to the president. So it was agreed at the Kansas City meeting that Bob Moore would be the sitting Congressman Charles Wilson head of the House Subcommittee on the census. He of course took an active interest in the city's complaint which American bank and then met with Congressman Wilson explain to him what we were looking for what we'd like to attempt to do.
Congressman Wilson encourage us to go ahead with that and if we can find a variance of 3 percent or better that he would certainly consider our request. Now the mayor and he has said this publicly we anticipated something like a 15 to 20 percent discrepancy in Baltimore because we have some neighborhoods where this is the high transit movement of people. Dan Zak Nini was named to coordinate the selective recount in Baltimore. We came up with a plan to go into two census tracks first to me I want to look at a census track area where there's a high fluctuation of people a lot of. Movement and then on the other hand he want to go into more stable communities so we went into these two different characteristics of a census tracks better more mobilized its own Census Bureau 300 city workers and moved into the test areas so these some 300 workers that census track the one that we have a lot of movement of
people and we found in that track a five point eight percent variance between our camp which was a door to door working out. Then what the federal government had conducted in April this made us very optimistic. In fact that if this characteristic would hold true that we'd come up with something like 6 percent in the city. Now we moved into the census track earlier where there's a more stable community where most homes it was a matter of fact we found both parents working which gave us an accounting problem we went back on Sundays and that night except except. Now that trap we found we came up short of the federal count we came up 3 percent behind under their camp. However we began to analyze as to what caused this and we found for instance. Right in fam in that trap we play on the eight streets that have been recorded for that census track they were in the south back to more that were in East Baltimore many miles from the actual crime.
So we appealed to the federal government to sort this out. The federal government was watching the Baltimore test quite closely. But Paul Squires the Census Bureau's field director already had an idea of what to expect. We have observed. We thought it quite remarkable that they were able to mount such a campaign in such a short time and do such a good job. The results of the mayor's effort showed of course and I think he discovered this very early that he could not come up to our April 1 count. He was counting in the middle of October and attempting to reconstruct the April 1 population of people who had moved out he couldn't count because he had no knowledge of them. People who had buried him he couldn't count as of April 1. So he I think abandoned the idea of trying to match our April 1 count and sought to get an accurate October 15 16 count which we think he bred
and initially the difference was something in the neighborhood of 5 percent between his October count and our April 1 count. However in reviewing the work that was turned in by the city of Baltimore we discovered that we had some geographic coding problems where we had counted 80 percent of these people and the difference but we had them allocated to the wrong block in another part of Baltimore this is not. This is not unique. The science of geographic allocation is not that advanced to. Make a long story short by the time we had adjusted. These two tracks and one other which he subsequently counted toward a possible near us develop was one point one percent. There are three accepted everything that he had. With the corrections that we had found in our
own work of moving people into their proper tracks the mess in those two tracks would have been one point one percent probability is it 50 or 60 percent of that part actually. Also as in the census. So all in all. You take an area where the mayor started out with a predicted 12 to 20 percent menace. He got it down to one point one percent. I think the mayor agrees now we need not only a good job but much better job than he or his fellow mayors believe we were capable of doing. So when Baltimore went back to Congressman Wilson and his census subcommittee they didn't have the figures needed to prompt a full scale effort to overturn the federal findings. Wilson did hold hearings on the situation in September and angry words flew. New York Representative Samuel Stratton called the 1970 census an incompetent and slipshod performance. New York Mayor John Lindsay called it a failure pointing to what he called a haphazard mail distribution untrained and
poorly paid enumerators a garbage can full of census forms found in Harlem a paper bag containing 50 completed form is found in Manhattan and so on. The complaints were a cross section of the twelve hundred plus received by the Bureau itself. But Congressman Wilson says the positive in the end outweighed the negative. I think the Census Bureau did an outstanding job in spite of the problems that they have been in this type of an endeavor and it's a big job. The mayors of the large cities were concerned and some question the census they are more optimistic that it is based upon. It means that they used to count people in their cities but when checks were made I think they they realized that the beer was accurate and as accurate as they could be and counted the people. And all in all I think Bill has done a good job. We did find
areas where we found they might have improved. We don't think that they provided enough of their budget for advertising and for informing the public through professional means their responsibility and the value of the census I think had they done theirs that there may have been a better response in some of the larger cities. Wilson says the bureau should've used another 20 million dollars on professional public relations. I think they were depending too much upon advertising that the some of the media gave to them. But they did not utilize. Professionals who could put a good program together that would sour the senses to the public without confusion and controversy about it. Let's take those one of the time. On the plus side well the staff at the bureau weren't quite fitting themselves for halos yet but they certainly do allow themselves smiles of
satisfaction on the question of accuracy now on the negative. The Congressional plea for more PR for the Census Bureau officials right now lean more toward the grassroots approach than a Madison Avenue campaign. Dr. Twitter just the right of mouth campaign the fact that our local leader a local organization takes this on and says to the community the only harm they can come is if you're not completely counted because they put the population count means political representation it means for us for development and the other day to mean all kinds of things in terms of programs and to overcome any hesitation any any feeling that this might give me information might jeopardize benefits which they're now getting. But I think this has to be done much more through community organizations through the churches through the schools.
Through the local press and surprise we're getting with ethnic communities through the ethnic press rather than in. What I take it at least you had in mind when you said a Madison Avenue type program. We did have the help of the Advertising Council. They placed at various months they develop posters. They they developed radio spots they developed TV spots. And these were rightly use. But we we agree to the extent that we need to find more effective ways of tapping these informal communication channels in those complaints about the uncounted who will become in many ways invisible people for the next decade. There was a sign of the times the new concern for minority groups again Dr. Torbert We had a good deal of controversy about the identification of Mexican-Americans of Puerto Ricans and other persons of Spanish origin and we're going to find a way to meet those needs and still
overcome some of the difficulties that lay in the way of immediately yielding to their will to the requests we had for the first time in the 70 census we employed a group of people we call community educators. We have 12 prominent offices we had at least one such person in every one of these offices in several offices we had two and three. In every case we had a black community educator who worked with the black community organizations and several of them we had a Spanish speaking community educator and then we had a Chinese speaking community educator. These people worked with the community organizations as we did here with the national organizations with the churches with the driving tour groups with the. Organizations of community organizations with the. And particularly with the Urban League which provided a great deal of help. Nonetheless there is a feeling that progress has been made.
Dr. Brown told us we were convinced we made a lot of headway in that area we really won't know until we can complete our analysis. But in prior years it's been difficult to get the census taken and then people who didn't understand the census or didn't understand our language or both. And these tend to be the lower educated persons or the persons in the broad group called minorities upon language speaking people and things of that sort. And it was for that reason that we went to the mail out mail back procedure and got this unequivocal identifier of dwelling units. Then we could assign to the field people say there it is it's either occupied or debate and and if it's occupied we've got to know who the occupants are. And it doesn't make any difference whether they are. Educated around educated whether they're black or white whether they are Chinese or Spanish speaking whatever it may be they are people they are in the United States on April 1st and it's the job of the field
to get their report Dr. Brown raised a point we haven't talked about yet the census by mail. Almost 48 percent of those counted never saw a census taker the postman brought their forms and they returned them by mail. Now most innovation sparked controversy and this one was no different. Dr. Joy and pipe that was misunderstood. One of the elements in this whole mail out mail back procedure that we used rise that we didn't just sit back and wait for those people who may have back their questionnaires if we didn't get a questionnaire from an address we went out and got the information directly. And if we got a questionnaire back that was incomplete or unacceptable. We had a no brainer go get in touch with the people and complete the questionnaire. There are two things about this that I think are not generally recognized one is that before we may have questionnaires develop the most complete list of addresses right people live or might
live that we were able to get our hands on. We started with a commercial list we had the post office updated on three separate occasions and in several of the ghetto areas we set our own people then to do an additional check to make sure we had every address. Now we sent questionnaires to each address. We insisted before we were through that the unknown writer had given us and the cult either a good questionnaire for every address or an explanation to the fact that perhaps the unit had burned down or been demolished or had been converted to non residential use whatever it might be. But we had a kind of control that we've never had before in 1960. The enumerator was given a map. She was told to cover every place in this inside this boundary a small territory with perhaps 800 people covering every place in the US and when she came back and said I've done my job we could do some checking but
not very much. And then 360 when she comes back and says I have finished my assignment. We sit down and say OK let's look at the list. The address list says there is a there's a house at three hundred forty eight north. If you got a questionnaire for yes or no what about three forty six north or what about three forty four north. What about three forty two. What about every address on this list. This is a kind of control we've never had before. And when we started checking back after these complaints the fact that we had done this checking became very evident. Because the the number of places that have been missed was just insignificant for decades now the Census has been more than just a head count. And because of that some people have gone to court to protect what they viewed as their right to privacy. More than 140 congressmen signed as co-sponsors of a bill to make census questions voluntary in their words to keep Big Brother from Count your
bathtubs in the number of people sharing them. But the lightning and thunder of protest were worse than the wind and rain of actual confrontations in 1070. Congressman Wilson says his committee received very few complaints once the forms actually went out last year. I think that was distorted considerably. It was an issue that some members of Congress misunderstood themselves those who were attempting to create it. There's no possible way that information gained from the census. It can be used to the disadvantage of a person. I think we better reading of some of the questions many lay the fears that some people have. Those questions on the census forms now that almost everyone has answered them are going to be invaluable to government officials from Washington on down to Shaddock Illinois near Fred Clive Barker's farm. You heard the bureau's slogan no doubt. We
can't know where we're going unless we know where we are. Well Richard Scammon a former bureau director responded calling the census a Polaroid snapshot an instant camera study of America and its living patterns. Well the 1970 snapshot is being developed and processed in Washington. Dr. Tarter says it will take some time yet this is going to be going on through 1970 run. We already have some information on the black and white balance of the population and how that's changed. We have some information on the number of men and women. We have information for some states now for some communities on day shift in the composition and the extent to which the population has gotten older or younger. The extent to which we have more young families and some indication of what's going to happen and that's good. We also have some information on the kind of housing the size of homes the value of homes. Now that is change the rental patterns
the extent of homeownership and the extent to which the homes in which people live meet the modern standards of quality. I said we have some of that now a great deal more of that is going to become available over the next months. It will for the rest day it will probably be early 1072 but the first results where the bear population statistics and these have gone to the president to be sent to Capitol Hill when certified by the ninety second Congress they'll set off a wave of redistricting and reapportionment across the country something that will stand for another 10 years. The other uses of the population figures there may be an updated version in mid decade back to Congressman Wilson. Hopefully it's the plan of our committee to push for the five year census that we seem to have no opposition on the committee for this and it should be a popular thing in Congress now I think and I'm sure that we can get this type of legislation adopted early next
next year. That's going to cost money. 975 sense says that we're going to raise another threat of a presidential veto over something like this. I was disappointed when President Nixon said that he was opposed to a five year sentence when he said he didn't think it was necessary. There is this possibility of a veto I would hope that we would have an understanding about that before we did adopt pass any legislation secretary stands in favor of the five year census and I think he was surprised when the president indicated that he was not in favor of this type of program. Again I don't know whether the president's objections are to the cost or whether he feels that it is an unnecessary thing. But we do it the way the Congress is passing federal programs that are dependent upon an accurate figure in the cities in the states that receive these federal programs because of this I think we have to have a more frequent census in order that we can.
Be sure that the cities and the states are getting what they are entitled to based upon what the number of people in there the municipalities and states may be. With that kind of sentiment on Capitol Hill how would the Census Bureau view what 1975 effort Dr. Joye that may be easier than waiting until 1988 starting completely from scratch again. The fact that the population is growing the fact that the population is changing as rapidly as it has is we're a very mobile people. Areas grow areas decline this happens very quickly and the Congress has had a committee has heard a great deal of testimony from mayors from local planning committees and governors from county officials and from private officials to the effect that the time has really come to do this more often than once every 10 years and we ought to have a census perhaps not as right ranging in terms of subject
matter but a a census that will give us the benchmarks offering once every 10 years and once every five years does the same to provide a way of giving communities information about themselves giving the name. Federal government the information about all areas in the country and not having this gaps and part of a problem in 97 he was just thinking that the local people who made estimates just don't have the material to work with. And over a 10 year period estimates can go pretty far astray over a five year period. They don't go as far astray. Personally I think it's coming. I think this is up to the Congress. There is that optimism then. But Dr. Brown did inject some caution as well. Well I am an optimist but I'm also a historian and it's been called to my attention that the plan from a decade census as a band advanced every decade since the Civil War which was the decade of one hundred sixty. And
sometimes with a good deal of interest and sometimes with less interest. At the early stages it was mechanically impossible. And then for a variety of reasons that has never actually come to fruition. I would say that the action is strictly a matter of the social decision through the administration and through the Congress and we stand ready to deliver the numbers if we are requested to do so. We will also be prepared to supply appropriate committees and the administration with all the information they will need with respect to ways and means of streamlining the census to keep the cost at whatever level seems to be appropriate. But. I would say it's a social decision as an individual it seems to me it's probably the kind of thing that ought to be done. But that's an individual decision and I have to. Recognize that I may be influenced by the fact that I'm the director of the census although I can say this I've only been here about a
year and I had this feeling about the importance of the census long before taking the official saying that if a census is to be taken in 1975 a decision must be made by late 1972 because of the tremendous planning effort needed for the count. After all one doesn't hire one hundred eighty thousand workers overnight. The Bureau must expand by about that many persons to accomplish the count. Normally Dr. Brown directs 5000 plus employees and those regulars have their work cut out for them in the next three years sifting into researching the mountains of data gathered in 1970. No matter when the Congress decides to do it all over again I'm convinced. I want to be counted. I certainly don't want the job of counting for the national educational radio network this is John R. Bush on in Washington. You've been listening to a federal case a weekly examination of the national issue from the perspective of our nation's capital. A federal case is
A Federal Case II
Episode Number
Census 1970
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National Educational Radio Network
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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"A Federal Case II" is a weekly program produced by the National Educational Radio Network which examines current political topics in the United States and Washington, D.C. Each episode features interviews with experts, members of the public, and lawmakers concerning a specific issue of government.
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Producing Organization: National Educational Radio Network
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Chicago: “A Federal Case II; 18; Census 1970,” 1971-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 28, 2022,
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APA: A Federal Case II; 18; Census 1970. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from