Monday, May 10, 2010
Narfoo: Working for the 2010 Census
For the most part, people who have answered doors that I have knocked on are friendly enough. The odd character thinks the Census is an invasion of privacy (at best) or part of a conspiracy (at worst). Some people are clearly home and refuse to open the door when I knock, like the woman who was obviously standing a foot away on the other side of the door who told me she was in the tub. Some, like the elderly woman who answered the first door that I knocked on, enjoy the company and invite us in. Paul, one of the other enumerators, knocked on door of a man who berated him (for about 10 minutes) (through the upstairs window) because Paul had woken him up, along with his wife and children. It was 1:00 p.m. in the afternoon. By the way, 10 minutes is about the time it would have taken to answer the enumerator's questions. Another of my colleagues conducted an interview at the front door of a house that was clearly cooking meth. One has to wonder what he was thinking...perhaps he knew that we are trained to do only our job and ignore the rest.
I had to learn the lingo: NRFU (pronounced narfoo) is the code for Non-Response FollowUp, the job for which I have been hired. I am known as an Enumerator, someone who goes to HUs (Housing Units) of people (known as Respondents) who have not returned their Census form in the mail (that's the Non-Response part). Every day we fill our the D-308, which normal people would call the daily payroll form. The D1Es are also known as the EQs, the Enumerator Questionnaires (with the script we must follow verbatim to ask you questions). The D1E(S) is the Spanish version. I have my official Census satchel, stuffed with the appropriate forms like the Info-Comm, used to send a message to someone else, such as my Crew Leader (boss) (whom I see every day) and the NV, the form to leave at someone's door if they don't answer (Notice of Visit) (D-26), filled out with valuable data like the LCO, the CLD, and my ID. There are more, my favorite being the WHUHE (pronounced woo-he) (Whole Household Usual Home Elsewhere). I only got (an embarrassing) 82% on the final (open book) test over this material, the test which serves as the final assessment of my readiness.
Following the script, we have to ask some funny things, like we have to ask everyone whether they are male or female, even if we think we know the answer. This translates to funny questions, like "Your son, is he male or female?" We have to ask what race the respondent is, even though, for example, Wikipedia says "human races are said not to exist, as taxonomically all humans are classified as the subspecies Homo sapiens sapiens." Still, the Census gives you a choice of twelve races, which seem a lot like ethnic groups to me, including White, Asian Indian, Japanese, Native Hawaiian, Black (including African American or Negro), Chinese...and the box for "Some other race," which is what you should choose if you are Hispanic. Very strange that a huge segment of the US population does not merit its inclusion on the list of suggested "races." A few respondents have checked "Some other race" and filled in "Human Race."