GAO urges Census to use migrant advocates' data

GAO urges Census to use migrant advocates' data

The Census Bureau should strengthen its methods of counting migrant farm workers in 2010 by developing protocols to use address information collected by migrant worker advocacy groups, the General Accounting Office reported yesterday.

The bureau faces challenges in counting migrant farm workers, partly because some workers and their families live in dwellings such as basement apartments, GAO said in the report (PDF), Decennial Census: Lessons Learned for Locating and Counting Migrant and Seasonal Farm Workers. Census employees also face occasional distrust of outsiders by the migrant farm workers as well as language and literacy issues, auditors found.

GAO urged the Commerce Department to get started more quickly for the 2010 Census by forming partnerships with state and local governments as well as migrant workers advocacy groups to exchange records that will help Census identify workers' addresses.

The congressional audit agency said Census should explore ways to integrate its data with records from other sources to plan its methods for counting migrant workers.

During the 2000 Census, one regional bureau office accepted address data from a worker advocacy group that contained information on more than 3,000 housing units that the bureau had not yet recorded. 'However, the bureau lacked protocols governing when and how to use address information from outside sources,' the report said.

In a written response to the report, the bureau generally agreed with the recommendations and said it would implement them.

GAO lauded the bureau's plans for bolstering its mapping systems and modernizing its geographic data processing. Both efforts will improve its ability to get a better count of migrant workers, the report said.

'The bureau's longer-term plans include equipping Census workers with Global Positioning System receivers that use satellites to help determine the precise location of housing units ' and validate the accuracy of each address,' GAO said.

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