As of late May, the 2010 census is in its final phase, according to the Census 2010 Hotline. While the work isn't finished, and there's been no official word on the matter, it looks as though the census is a success. That's because there was a 72% mail participation rate, the percentage of forms mailed back by people who got them.
This is a new measurement tool for the Census Bureau. It's being used for the 2010 census because of the increase in vacant housing in recent years. This method doesn't count forms that were mailed out to homes, but returned by the post office as "undeliverable." Census takers will visit those homes to make sure they're vacant and no one gets missed in the count, though.
Other work continues, too. In addition to visiting "vacant" homes, over 600,000 census takers hit the streets starting May 1. They're going door-to-door to count people who didn't respond to the mailer or didn't get one. If a census taker knocks on your door, open up and answer the questions. The door-to-door effort is scheduled to run until August 13.
The Census Bureau is also calling people who mailed back the form. You may get a call if there was something unclear about the answers you wrote down. Callbacks will run to about August 13, too.
As a side note, beware of the people coming into your home. One woman recognized a sex offender who had taken a census job. She politely gave the requested information and when he left reported him to the police. Don't take matters into your own hands.
I'm not a number! Well, technically, you are. We all are, or at least every 10 years we are. That's because the US census is taken every 10 years. And, as in the past, the 2010 census raises questions about its necessity and impact on certain groups of people.
Article I, section 2 of the US Constitution requires an "enumeration" or counting of all people living in the US. It also requires this headcount to be taken every 10 years. So, there's been a census every 10 years since 1790. The 2010 census will be the 23rd in US history.
The census counts everyone in the US, regardless of immigration or citizenship status. So, in theory at least, even persons in the US illegally are supposed to be included in the headcount. And, it's against federal law to refuse to answer the census questionnaire or give false information. Also, the information you provide on the census form is confidential. If any employee of the US Census Bureau (Bureau) discloses your information to anyone, he faces a fine and prison term.
Unlike in years past, the 2010 census is very short. It's made up of 10 questions, and according to the Bureau, it should take only 10 minutes to complete. Questions include the name, gender, and race of all people living in your household. The census form will be mailed beginning in March 2010. Census workers hand-deliver the forms in areas where the US Postal Service doesn't deliver mail.
Importance and Criticisms
The media blitz surrounding the 2010 census gives us an idea of how important the census is - at least as far as the government is concerned. There's a nation-wide road tour, and you can keep up to date with the progress on Twitter and YouTube. The Bureau even paid $2.5 million for a 30-second Super Bowl commercial.
Perhaps the most important thing the census is does is determine the b breakdown of members of the US House of Representatives. Each state gets US representatives based upon its population. More people living in the state mean more representatives. So, the census has a huge impact on how many representatives your state has for the next 10 years.
The census also determines how much federal money and assistance each state receives. The federal government doles out more than $400 billion each year to state, local, and tribal governments. The money is used for things like hospitals, schools, and road improvements. The more people living in the state, the more money it gets.
Because so much rides on it, the census is almost always under attack by people or groups over the headcount's accuracy. For instance, many immigrants or foreign nationals in the US illegally are likely to ignore the census.
Despite the promise of confidentiality, the fear of deportation makes them unwilling to voluntarily disclose their whereabouts. State officials don't like this trend. Immigrants are living in the state and taking advantage of public resources, and so they'd like them counted so the state can reap the full benefits of the census.
Similarly, some state officials object to the fact that inmates in state and federal prisoners are treated by the census as living in the state where they're incarcerated rather than their states of residency. This, too, prevents some states from benefiting fully from the census.
Regardless of the controversies, it's important for you to stand and be counted in 2010. Take a few minutes and fill-out the questionnaire. The political and financial futures of your state depend on it.
Questions For Your Attorney
- I'm a US citizen but I've been living overseas for the past 3 years because of my job. Do I need to complete the census form?
- Do I have to complete a census form that's been sent to my business office?
- Can a minor complete the form?