2010 Census: Time to stand up and be counted
February 23, 2010
By Tim Pfarr
Once every 10 years, it comes out of hiding, and it feeds. It feeds on your personal information, and it’s hungry for its decennial supper. No, it’s not a horrible monster; it’s the 2010 census.
Here’s the good news: The Census Bureau has taken steps to ensure the process is as quick and painless as possible for residents.
The census is a short questionnaire mailed to every household across the country every 10 years. Only one census must be filled out per household, and the census will ask about the number of people living in a given household. Specifically, it will ask the ages, genders and races of the people living in the household, and their relations to the homeowner. It will also ask for a phone number.
All residents need to do is fill out the census and return it in the postage-paid envelope the Census Bureau provides. It’s as simple as that.
However, if you don’t complete the form and mail it back, a census worker will knock on your door and ask you the questions. Census workers will never ask to enter your home, and they carry identification verifying their employment with the Census Bureau.
If you are not home when a census worker knocks on your door, he or she will leave a door hanger with a contact number. Census workers will be making their rounds between April and July.
According to the Census Bureau’s Web site, participating in the census helps communities receive federal funds for things such as hospitals, job training centers, schools, senior centers, public works projects and emergency services. In total, more than $400 billion of federal funds will be distributed for such things.
Census information is also used for redistricting, the process by which electoral districts and constituency boundaries change. Redistricting is required by the U.S. Constitution.
State legislators or independent bipartisan commissions use census data to redraw district lines.
On occasion, residents have even used census data to support community initiatives, according to the Census Bureau.
The city has partnered with the census team in Issaquah to let residents know about the upcoming census and its purpose, said Autumn Monahan, Issaquah communications coordinator.
She said the city is issuing notices in its newsletters, on its Web site and on flyers at City Hall to alert residents of the upcoming census.
After you have completed the census, sit back, relax and a wait for the statistics to be announced. In December, the Census Bureau will deliver the regional population data to President Obama, and in March 2011, regional data will be added to the Census Bureau Web site for members of the public to view and use, U.S. Census Bureau Media Specialist Deni Luna said.
For 72 years, no census data for individual households is made available to anyone, including the president. However, after 72 years, census data for individual households will be made publicly available to allow individuals to track their ancestors, Luna said.
Questions about the 2010 Census
Can political organizations manipulate the census?
The census process is closely watched by Congress, the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Commerce and others. Only sworn employees of the Census Bureau conduct the census. Our partners only volunteer to help raise awareness of the coming count.
Could there be criminals working for the census?
All census workers undergo an FBI name background check. Fingerprinting has also been added as a requirement in 2010. These security measures screened out about 16 percent of the hundreds of thousands of applicants for census operations in 2009.
Will the census ask a bunch of intrusive questions?
The 2010 Census will be one of the shortest and simplest in the nation’s history. It will ask 10 basic questions, including name, gender, age, date of birth, race, household relationship and if a given home is owned or rented. It asks less personal information than a typical credit card application.
Should I be concerned about sharing my personal information?
Census information is protected by law, and everyone who works for the census must swear that they will never disclose any personal information. An employee who shares personal information could be sentenced to as much as five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Why can’t I fill out the census form on the Internet?
The Census Bureau explored this option and found that allowing individuals to fill out the census form online would not allow enough protection on individual census responses. It also found that doing so would not increase the percentage of individuals who responded, and that doing so would not save money. However, the Census Bureau is still exploring a secure Internet option for the 2020 census and other surveys.
Take the Issaquah Census*
- How many pounds of salmon did you consume last year?
- How many miles have you traveled by foot on Issaquah’s trails in the past year?
- How many times have you visited Fraternity Snoqualmie in the past year?
- How much money have you spent at Costco in the past year?
- How many XXX burgers were you able to finish in the past year?
- How many Modest Mouse albums did you purchase in the past year?
- How many pints of beer did you down at the Brew House in the past year?
* Just kidding!