Census Count Begins

One, two, three, four, five….  They’re almost here.  The 2010 Census forms should be in our mailboxes this week.  More than 120 million of them.  It’s the once-a-decade population count that will be used to divvy up congressional seats and more than $400 billion in federal aid, including funding for schools, roads, and health care.

It’s just the 23rd time the country has done this, dating back to 1790.   There are some who are skeptical about the count, saying it asks too many questions and represents increasing government intrusion into private matters.  However you feel about the census, here’s a little of what you can expect.

The 2010 Census asks 10 basic questions:

  1. The number of people living in the residence
  2. Any additional people who might be living there as of April 1, 2010
  3. Whether the residence is owned or rented
  4. Telephone number (in case the Census Bureau has follow-up questions)
  5. Name
  6. Sex
  7. Age and date of birth
  8. Whether of Hispanic origin
  9. Race
  10. Whether that person sometimes lives somewhere else

You may have your own questions.  Here are a few of them:

  • “Do I have to fill it out?” Failure to respond to the census carries a fine of up to $5000, although that law is rarely enforced.
  • “How is my information protected?” The Census Bureau was expecting this one.  Check out its response here.
  • “What’s with that letter I got last week announcing the Census Form was coming this week?  That seemed like a waste of money.” By some estimates those letters cost anywhere from $42 million to $57 million dollars to mail.  But Census Bureau officials say you’ve got to spend money to save money, adding,  “For every 1 percent increase in households that respond by mail, taxpayers save about $85 million.”  That’s because it only costs 44 cents to mail back the form, and an average of $57 for a worker to come to your door to follow-up.

I realize that’s a lot of numbers to throw around, and to trust all of them.  And that’s what the final count may come down to.

p.s. The actual census forms begin arriving March 15-17.  You can read more about the census at the Census Bureau’s web site.

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