Thursday, July 30, 2009

Oklahoma's Asian council told of census

Published: July 30, 2009

Members of a state council pledged Wednesday to encourage Asians in the state to participate in next year’s census.

Hung Le, chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Asian-American Affairs, and other council members agreed to invite members of the various Asian communities to meetings with census workers.

Connie Yellowman said efforts are under way to increase participation in Oklahoma’s census and to get a more accurate accounting of the state’s population.

The 2000 census showed 46,767 Asians living in Oklahoma, a figure that Le said is low. That number has increased over the years. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that the growth of Asians was 2.5 percent in 2008 in the U.S.

Richard Gerdes, assistant regional census manager in Kansas City, Mo., said in a telephone interview that Oklahoma’s residents were undercounted in the 2000 census.

Based on census forms mailed out and the number that were returned, it’s estimated Oklahoma was undercounted by 1.4 percent, or 48,995, he said. That count put the state’s population at 3.5 million.

Yellowman told council members that information obtained by census workers would not be shared with other agencies.

"It’s confidential; it’s privileged,” she said.

Dr. Kyung-Whan Min, the council’s vice chairman, asked about the status of undocumented workers who might be living in the state.

"Status of citizenship is not an issue for us,” Yellowman said.

"No census worker is going to tell anyone about what they’ve seen.”

Le said the council would work to set up meetings with census workers and members of the eight Asian communities represented on the council: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Korea, the Philippines, China, Taiwan and India.

Traditionally, minority groups have had a poor participation rate with the census, Yellowman said.

Every household in the state will be mailed a questionnaire in March as part of the census, which is done every 10 years. The goal is to have all census questionnaires returned by April 1.

Unlike 2000, when residents received a long form or a short questionnaire, only one form will be mailed in 2010. It has 10 questions about the household and should take about 10 minutes to complete. A prepaid return envelope is enclosed with the questionnaire.

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