Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton say the U.S. Census Bureau is not devoting enough resources to reaching hard-to-count populations, especially new immigrants and minorities who may be distrustful of government questionnaires.
African-American leaders including Jackson and Sharpton met recently with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, who will be responsible this year for the population count that occurs once every 10 years.
NAACP president Ben Jealous said there's no reason the nation can't have the most accurate census ever, but pointed to historical undercounts of the black population.
Census Bureau offices in Memphis, Shelby County and Jackson, Tenn., as well as Southaven, Miss., will be gearing up this month to hire workers for the count. The Memphis and Shelby County jobs pay $17 per hour. In Southaven, the pay rate is $10.50 an hour, and in Jackson, it's $11.25.
The census is used to draw congressional and state legislative districts and allocate federal funding. The confidential census of the population is called for in the U.S. Constitution. Inaccurate counts can distort political power and result in discrepancies that can last for a decade.