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Friday, April 24, 2009

San Francisco Census Director: I'm Flooded with Ph.D and MBA Job Applicants

Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2009 at 11:59 AM

click to enlarge Congrats, kids! Your future as a census-taker awaits.
  • Congrats, kids! Your future as a census-taker awaits.
Dave Schaitberger has enough Ph.Ds working for him to start a dissertation factory, and enough MBAs on hand to draw up God knows how many business plans on how to run it. This would be par for the course if Schaitberger was a bossman at Google or McKinsey or the like -- but he works for the U.S. Census.

He's hired these overeducated folks to tote clipboards around San Francisco and knock on doors.

"We're certainly getting a lot of high-quality people," muses Schaitberger, who has worked for the census since the 1970s. "We normally have to spend a lot of money advertising for recruiting for census jobs. But this year, we had no problem at all filling the positions. We stopped our recruiting earlier than we ever have before, just because we were able to get enough qualified applicants."

Working as a census-taker -- like sleeping in a car or eating spaghetti topped with ketchup -- seems to be a fixture in every successful person's "rise to the top" story. Usually, however, the Ph.D or MBA comes after the census part. But not with today's economy; San Francisco professionals were scrambling for Schaitberger's door-to-door work like East Germans used to trample one another to get some Coca-Cola.

Being a census-taker is not easy work -- lots of folks don't take kindly to offering biographical details to strangers -- but it does pay well:

Schaitberger, the director of San Francisco's census office,  notes that "enumerators" earn $22 an hour (no bennies), while crew leaders -- who oversee groups of enumerators -- take home $23.50. The federal government offers pay on a tier-rate based on a region's cost of living. Naturally, San Francisco's is the highest in the nation.

In San Francisco (and San Mateo), around 750 enumerators and crew leaders are currently canvassing the counties, gathering information on all the homes and "group quarters" (dorms, senior facilities, halfway houses) in the realm. And those who earned Ph.Ds in the sciences are handy -- for the first time, census workers are toting around hand-held computer devices equipped with GPS units to map exactly where those dwelling units are.

One the current mapping effort is finished, Schaitberger will be hiring thousands of folks as the 2010 census forms are mailed to the housing lists currently being compiled. Workers will be subsequently dispatched to homes where the forms were not filled out.

By the way -- those without advanced degrees are still more then eligible to apply for a job as a census worker. Schaitberger says that the most important thing an applicant can possess is "common sense" -- and they don't offer a doctorate in that. 

Photo   |   Will Hale

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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