Second Phase of Census Data Collection Underway — Results Available Next Year

Diane Mathurin, Census 2010 U.S. Virgin Islands clerk, stands outside the organization’s office on the third floor of The Marketplace.

Households whose Census questionnaires were missing critical information will soon be revisited by Census workers in the second phase of the Virgin Islands Census, which began July 10 and will close July 22.

Not every household will be visited during this phase, deemed “Field Follow-up,” during which volunteers will attempt to gather missing information, and verify that dwellings listed as vacant are indeed empty.

Once the second phase is complete, the information gathered during the Census will be evaluated by the Count Review Program, made up of individuals appointed by Governor John deJongh.

Numerous volunteers canvassed the territory during the first phase of data collection, gathering questionnaires which were mailed to each household in an attempt to count all residents of the Virgin Islands.

Longtime St. John residents Chuck and Terry Pishko, who volunteered during the 2000 Census and again for this year’s count, found the program to be well organized, explained Terry Pishko.

“I think it was well run,” she said. “Yes, I think there are other people we need to get out there and count, but our people did the best they could on the first phase.”

Terry Pishko worked as a team leader, directing five people known as enumerators who went door to door collecting the questionnaires. Although St. John is a small island, counting each resident proved to be time-consuming, Terry Pishko explained.

“For a small island, it’s a big island,” she said. “There are a lot of houses with people living in apartments, and people had multiple jobs. The hardest part was having to track them down at home; sometimes, we looked for them at their jobs.”

Telephone interviews were also conducted with residents who weren’t able to speak face to face with Census workers.

Despite difficulties in tracking people down, residents were overwhelmingly cooperative, according to Chuck Pishko, who went door to door collecting questionnaires.

“For the invasiveness of the questions, people were very cooperative and gave us decent answers,” he said. “Regardless of status or citizenship, they answered our questions. It was an overall positive experience.”

The Census, which is conducted nationally every 10 years, helps determine how much government funding the territory is entitled to, so it’s important for residents to participate, explained 2010 Census Media/Partnership Specialist Kinila Paige.

“Among other things, the Census provides a benchmark in terms of population distribution by island, and does the same for housing,” said Paige. “It tells us the ethnic makeup, educational background, marriage rate, income level and home-ownership of the population. The number of single-parent households and people living with disabilities is also gathered from the Census count.”

The Census is important for more than just determining the amount of government funding the territory should receive; it’s also an essential tool when it comes to planning for the next 10 years of growth, Paige continued.

“These numbers help to determine the well-being of our society, which then determines the amount of funding that is allotted,” she said. “But overall, this information helps our territory because we are able to better plan for our needs. Additionally, this is our only opportunity for the next 10 years to statistically define who we are as the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

Information gathered during this year’s Census will be made available to the public sometime next year via the V.I.’s State Data Center, located at the University of the Virgin Islands’ Eastern Caribbean Center.

For more information on this year’s Census, contact the St. Thomas office at 714-2010, or the St. John office, which is located at The Marketplace, at 779-7316.