Census 2010: Learn More and Be a Part of History
Readers may have seen the advertisements on television or maybe seen a poster on campus about the Census. I am writing this post to provide some information and help our readers learn more. The census is basically a count of everyone residing in the United States at the time of the census. All U.S. residents are counted; the Census Bureau does not ask about residency status. For starters, the U.S. Constitution established the census. In Article 1, Section 2, the Constitution includes the phrase: "[An] Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct." The first national census was done in 1790. The main law that controls the census is Title 13 of the U.S. Code. This law states how often and when the census is to be done--every ten years on April 1st. The Census Bureau is currently sending out the census forms. If you do not return it, a census taker may visit you. According to the Census Bureau website, the census workers "must follow-up in person with every address that doesn't mail back the form in order to obtain the responses." Participation in the census is required by law (Section 221, of Title 13 of the U.S. Code). However, the Census Bureau very rarely enforces the law in this regard. According to the bureau, "rather than rely on criminal charges, the Census Bureau is very successful in getting participation by explaining the importance of the questions we ask and how the information benefits our communities." Want to learn more? Here are some links of interest:
- The official U.S. Census Bureau website for Census 2010. You can see the form that is coming in the mail with a short explanation of why the bureau asks each question. You can also learn how the agency protects your confidentiality, what census takers do, what the agency does with the information collected, and other items of interest. You can even get a link to the U.S. Census Bureau's Director's blog. You can even see participation rates in an interactive map. See how your area did in responding during the 2000 census and go back to see how your area does this year.
- One of the challenges the Census Bureau faces is counting college students. This article by Mary Beth Marklein from USA Today looks at the issue and explains why it is important for college students to be counted. For students, this means you are counted where you live. In other words, if you live most of the year on campus, you are counted on campus. You can learn more in this fact sheet from the Census Bureau for college students (PDF).
- Another source of analysis about the role of the census comes from the Brookings Institution, which conducts research and education in the social sciences, primarily in economics, metropolitan policy, governance, foreign policy, and global economy and development This think tank has a couple of articles that may be of interest. You can read "Five Myths About the 2010 Census and the U.S. Population" and "Counting for Dollars: The Role of the Decennial Census in the Distribution of Federal Funds."
- Another source where you can get some quick answers to questions about the census is FactCheck. This site, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, is a good source to get answers to common questions and to clarify myths and misconceptions. They have a section addressing various questions about the census here.