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Job Description of an Enumerator

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Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau surveys the nation's population to create a demographic profile of the economy and its citizens. Many state, local and tribal governments conduct similar surveys. The linchpin of this effort is the enumerator, who works as a contract employee for the project's duration. Enumerators obtain this data through visits and interviews, which they must catalog accurately, and follow up when people don't respond.

Accurately Documenting Information

An enumerator must know how residents are officially defined, as well as whom to count -- and not to count -- because mistakes are costly. For example, failure to count 240 residents in a city of 15,000 people might mean a $10,800 loss of state revenue for the municipality, according to an enumerators' manual posted by the State of Washington's Office of Financial Management (OFM).

Public Contact

Extensive interviewing and canvassing is required to gain data. In a typical interview, enumerators obtain the names of a household's usual residents and whether other people live on the property. As the OFM's manual indicates, enumerators are expected to work evenings and weekends, when it's easier to reach more people.

Verification and Follow-Up

When people don't return questionnaires, the enumerator must account for their status -- including whether the housing unit was occupied, vacant or didn't exist on Census Day, according to guidelines issued in July 2009. Once he's gathered and verified the data, the enumerator must record it quickly and accurately, and move on.