In fact, it is coming directly to your home.
In March 2010, you will receive in the mail a form asking questions about income, race, age, and other characteristics of all those living in your household. If you don’t fill out that form, you will receive a “second-chance” notice, and if the second-chance is ignored, you might just get a knock on the door from one of the thousands of Census takers hired to ask those questions of you directly (peak recruitment for hiring will begin soon for jobseekers). Many programs will take place as part of the Census, including personal interviews with people who are transitory and follow-up interviews.
With every Census comes the opportunity for many questions and myths to circulate. So below, we have tried to address some of the common questions about the Census, as well as some of the more nuanced misconceptions that are out there.
- How long does it take to fill out the Census?
- In past Census years, one in six households received a “long-form” questionnaire asking not only for demographic information but also how much a household paid in property taxes and whether or not they had indoor plumbing. For lovers of statistics, the answers were a dream come true, but for households filling out the form, it was more of a nightmare. The 2010 Census will be “short-form” only, requiring “only minutes” to fill out. Data normally collected in the long-form is now collected yearly though the American Community Survey.
- There are a few reasons why you need to fill out the Census form, but the one that will get people’s attention first is this: it’s the law. Besides the fact that you have to fill out the form, there are many other benefits: the Census helps determine your community’s representation in Congress as well as the allocation of federal and state funding. It also helps determine where to build roads and schools and what services may be needed in a given area.
- Privacy is a growing concern in the US, and one that often comes up on Census forms. The Census Bureau has an entire website devoted to data protection, which discussed confidentiality and safeguards. Census workers must take an oath of confidentiality and are subject to a fine and/or jail term for violating this oath.
- The Census is mandated to count everyone, regardless of immigration status. According to the Census Bureau, individual Census records are not shared with anyone, including INS. It is against the law for the Census to release personally identifiable information for 72 years after the information is collected. After 72 years, the information will be sent to the National Archives for use primarily in genealogical research.
- The Census will be sent in English, but will include a phone number to request a form in Spanish, simplified Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, or Russian. These forms will also be found in libraries and other public locations. Language guides will be available to assist speakers of other languages in filling out their English-only version.
- The Constitution mandates that everyone living in the United States be counted every ten years. This count is used to determine Congressional redistricting, community funding, and other information.
- Statistical sampling involves collecting data on a certain set of individuals that is representative of a larger group of individuals. It is a proven scientific method used to for many purposes, and some believe it should be used in calculating the Census. While the argument has been made that sampling would be unconstitutional, the ruling in question notes that sampling has been outlawed by Congress for use in the Census, which does not make it unconstitutional. If Congress decided at a later date to permit sampling, they would just need to change the law. At this time, the 2010 Census does not plan to rely on sampling.
- In the 2000 Census, it is estimated that 6.4 million people went uncounted, while 3.1 million people were counted twice. Minorities and the poor are among those that are often undercounted, which leads to government underestimations of the services needed in a particular area.