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La Coopertiva

November/December 1998 issue of Poverty & Race

The La Cooperativa team's work on the census undercount of migrant and seasonal farm workers is moving rapidly forward. With only 18 months to go until Census day, 2000, work has turned to collaboration with the Census Bureau on operational strategies to improve the representation of migrant and seasonal farm workers in the decennial census.

At an October 9 meeting of the Western Association of Farm worker Advocates, in seminars organized by the La Cooperativa team, Census Bureau representatives outlined ways in which advocates could work in partnership with the Bureau. Major areas for collaboration will include: developing enhanced address listings to assure inclusion of low-visibility housing where farm workers live; helping recruit grassroots farm worker community workers to work as census enumerators, crew leaders and supervisors; and sponsoring Questionnaire Assistance Centers to help low-literate farm workers complete a census form.

At the same time, the La Cooperativa team is already beginning to look beyond 2000 and starting to join with the Bureau staff in working to develop the American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS represents a radically new approach to generating demographic and socioeconomic data on Americans, via a "continuous" census. This work is focused on how to build in to the ACS strategies and procedures that will improve the representation of hard-to-count groups such as farm workers and improve key questions (for example, by allowing respondents to say they work in more than a single job or occupation). Ultimately, the ACS may become an important tool for planners and advocates, since it will develop more timely data than the decennial census and a much larger sample size than the present Current Population Survey.

At this point, a great deal of progress has been made but some key problem areas remain. One of the most serious concerns relates to the kind of information collected from persons enumerated via the new Census 2000 "Be Counted" procedures (which allow persons who did not receive a mailed census form to fill out a form that would be easily available at local corner stores, post offices, etc). If these "Be Counted" respondents are not part of the "long form" sample used to generate the demographic and socioeconomic profile of the United States, the procedure may seriously bias the resulting population profile by systematically ignoring the characteristics of people who responded via this alternative - i.e. those living in the most marginal social and economic conditions.

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