November 08, 2006

Census Takers Hit Streets

Greenport residents who heard a knock on their doors last week were met with the evidence of a long-planned census process that's become a here-and-now reality.

According to Mayor David Kapell, data collection began on Friday with 11 teams of information gatherers going door to door to interview residents for a brand-new census that aims to give an accurate, immigration-blind view of just who is living and working in the village.

The teams, consisting of an English-speaking individual paired with a bilingual, Spanish-speaking partner, "met with good cooperation everywhere and completed nine surveys," said Kapell, with remaining teams fanning out over the weekend. "We are off to a smooth start and I am encouraged by the welcome the teams are receiving from the community."

Originally, the goal was to count each of the individuals who have been living and working in the village. But, after identifying difficulties, consultants suggested conducting a 20 percent sampling instead.

A map was developed to ensure the survey is administered to a cross-section of the community; the map will be given to a statistician to ensure unbiased results.

Assuming the map represents a true cross section, the sampling can be used "within a very small margin of error, using statistics to extrapolate the real numbers," said Kapell, with plus or minus four percent. In addition, the questionnaire was streamlined to make the process simple for residents.

The 13-question survey included inquiries on age, how many families lived in each house surveyed, how many unrelated individuals lived in a household, and how many individuals there were in each family.

Residents were asked if they owned or rented, if they were year-round or seasonal residents, how long they had lived in Greenport and in the United States, where they were born, and how many children living in the household were born in the United States.

There were also questions on what type of work residents and their spouses do and the length of employment for each person. A summary of the survey will be available in January; reports will be available at village hall.

Canvassers were asked to check off gender and race as well.

The idea for the census was originally sparked when, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the most recent federal census in 2000 showed the population for the incorporated village at 2,048, with the number of Latinos numbering 353, or 17.2%. Kapell said those numbers are unbalanced, "inadequate and obsolete."

The next federal census will not be taken until 2010. Christie Hallock, who worked with the information-gathering team, said the group had several meetings and worked for many hours to develop the survey. A training session was held on October 15, during which bilingual pairs were introduced; Sister Margaret Smyth of The North Fork Spanish Apostolate served as an interpreter.

"They were all so enthusiastic about taking part in this important event," said Hallock. "It was great to see."

When the surveys are complete, analytical results will follow.

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