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Charlotte Amalie
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HomeNewsArchivesCENSUS DIFFERENCES: MAINLAND VERSUS V.I.

CENSUS DIFFERENCES: MAINLAND VERSUS V.I.

There are two significant differences between the way the federal census is conducted on the mainland and in the Virgin Islands.
On the mainland, the so-called long form, which some Republican political leaders see as an invasion of personal privacy, was mailed to only one in six households. The other five were mailed a short form. In the Virgin Islands, the long form was standard issue, mailed to every household.
On the mainland, enumerators are now visiting only those households that failed to mail back their form, long or short, as they were requested to do. Here, enumerators are now visiting all households, which were asked to keep the forms until a knock on the front door.
The differences are related to statistical principles but also shed light on what the V.I. government hopes to gain from the census in the islands.
The long form — 33 questions — must be used universally in the territory to get a reliable picture of a relatively small population, according to Dr. Frank Mills, the Virgin Islands census manager. Sampling only one in six households isn't good enough in a place with a population of only 45,000 to 47,000 households, he said.
"This is my third census," Mills said, "and we always use only the long form. We don't distinguish between a long form and a short form. Here, it's just 'the form.'"
In Washington, some Republican leaders, including presidential candidate George W. Bush and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, have assailed the long form as an invasion of privacy. Bush, however, stopped short of telling people not to answer the questions.
Mills sees it differently.
"Every question on the long form meets a specific need in determining the distributions from federal entitlement programs, which are so important to the Virgin Islands," he said. "We cannot afford not to answer those questions."
Most of the questions on the long form have been part of the census for decades. This year's long form is the shortest in 60 years; the only new question concerns grandparents who are caregivers for children.
Census officials insist the information they gather about an individual or household is so confidential that they are not allowed to furnish it to other government agencies.
"For example," one mainland census official told the Source, "an illegal immigrant could never be deported on the basis of census information. The courts wouldn't allow it."
For another, a local census officer said, if there should happen to be St. John residents living aboard boats who have fled stateside alimony and child support judgments, they need not worry that the census data could allow court authorities to track them down and make them pay. It won't.
Some persons think the enumerators hired locally are calling on every household in the Virgin Islands because the 33-question form is so difficult to fill out. Mills insists not, although enumerators will help if asked to do so, he said.
He said map-making is the main reason for all the house calls. The V.I. government needs to produce accurate maps showing how many dwellings there are and where they are located, he said. The enumerators are carrying drafts of maps and are correcting them as they go door to door — and out on dinghies to boats.

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There are two significant differences between the way the federal census is conducted on the mainland and in the Virgin Islands.
On the mainland, the so-called long form, which some Republican political leaders see as an invasion of personal privacy, was mailed to only one in six households. The other five were mailed a short form. In the Virgin Islands, the long form was standard issue, mailed to every household.
On the mainland, enumerators are now visiting only those households that failed to mail back their form, long or short, as they were requested to do. Here, enumerators are now visiting all households, which were asked to keep the forms until a knock on the front door.
The differences are related to statistical principles but also shed light on what the V.I. government hopes to gain from the census in the islands.
The long form -- 33 questions -- must be used universally in the territory to get a reliable picture of a relatively small population, according to Dr. Frank Mills, the Virgin Islands census manager. Sampling only one in six households isn't good enough in a place with a population of only 45,000 to 47,000 households, he said.
"This is my third census," Mills said, "and we always use only the long form. We don't distinguish between a long form and a short form. Here, it's just 'the form.'"
In Washington, some Republican leaders, including presidential candidate George W. Bush and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, have assailed the long form as an invasion of privacy. Bush, however, stopped short of telling people not to answer the questions.
Mills sees it differently.
"Every question on the long form meets a specific need in determining the distributions from federal entitlement programs, which are so important to the Virgin Islands," he said. "We cannot afford not to answer those questions."
Most of the questions on the long form have been part of the census for decades. This year's long form is the shortest in 60 years; the only new question concerns grandparents who are caregivers for children.
Census officials insist the information they gather about an individual or household is so confidential that they are not allowed to furnish it to other government agencies.
"For example," one mainland census official told the Source, "an illegal immigrant could never be deported on the basis of census information. The courts wouldn't allow it."
For another, a local census officer said, if there should happen to be St. John residents living aboard boats who have fled stateside alimony and child support judgments, they need not worry that the census data could allow court authorities to track them down and make them pay. It won't.
Some persons think the enumerators hired locally are calling on every household in the Virgin Islands because the 33-question form is so difficult to fill out. Mills insists not, although enumerators will help if asked to do so, he said.
He said map-making is the main reason for all the house calls. The V.I. government needs to produce accurate maps showing how many dwellings there are and where they are located, he said. The enumerators are carrying drafts of maps and are correcting them as they go door to door -- and out on dinghies to boats.