Tuesday, March 02, 2010
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A brief history of the U.S. Census and what to expect with this year's form

Part 1 of a series

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[March 02, 2010]  Within a few weeks, the U.S. Census Bureau will deliver a form to every household and apartment in Logan County, as they will to every county across the nation. It is all part of the constitutionally directed effort to take a decennial census of the people who live in the United States.

InsuranceThe U.S. Constitution mandates a count of everyone, both citizens and noncitizens. Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution states:

The actual 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 federal government has followed this mandate since the first census in 1790. The Constitution's framers intended all inhabitants of the country to be counted in the census, and so it has. Unfortunately, in the same article the Constitution also dictated that slaves be counted as three-fifths of a person, which they were until slavery was abolished in 1865.

The first United States census in 1790 estimated the country's population at 3,929,214. The most recent census, in 2000, showed the population to be 281,421,906. The population for 2010 is estimated to have eclipsed the 3 million mark.

The Census Bureau has advertised that the 2010 census is one of the shortest census forms in history, touting it as "10 Questions in 10 Minutes." The Census Bureau is no longer using the so-called "long forms." Previously, one in six households received a more detailed questionnaire asking for specific social and economic information. This year, the census will consist of only a 10-question form asking basic questions, such as name, gender, age, date of birth, race, ethnicity, relationship and housing tenure. The form asks to account for everyone living at an address as of April 1, 2010.

While the long form is being discarded, the Census Bureau will continue their "American Community Survey," sent to several thousand representative households a month in each state, asking more involved questions about the household, including the income amount, who provides the health insurance, the mode of transportation for work and the amount of living expenses for that household.

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The following questions will be asked on the 2010 Census Bureau form:

  1. How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment or mobile home as of April 1, 2010?

  2. Were there any other additional people staying here as of April 1, 2010, that you did not include in Question 1?

  3. Is this house, apartment, or mobile home owned by you or someone else, or is it rented?

  4. What is your telephone number?

  5. Please provide information for each person living here. Start with a person living here who owns or rents this house, apartment or mobile home. If the owner or renter lives somewhere else, start with any adult living here. This will be Person 1. What is Person 1's name?

  6. What is Person 1's sex?

  7. What is Person 1's age and what is Person 1's date of birth?

  8. Is Person 1 of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin?

  9. What is Person 1's race?

  10. Does Person 1 sometimes live or stay somewhere else?

  11. If more people were counted in Question 1, continue with Person 2.

Delivery of the 2010 census forms in Illinois is scheduled to begin in the first week of March. Once households receive the form, they are asked to complete it and mail it back in the postage-paid envelope provided. The Census Bureau considers a person's residence the place where a person lives or sleeps most of the time. The form is available in six languages.

If an additional form or additional help is needed, many communities have set up community centers for census information. One such place in Logan County is at the Lincoln Heritage Museum at Lincoln College.

The Census Bureau is under the direction of the U.S. Department of Commerce. For more information about the 2010 census, visit 2010census.gov or call 866-872-6868.

[Text from file received from Ron J. Keller]

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