the census measures, how the information is used and why it's
important to fill it out
Part 2 of a
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[March 03, 2010]
As Americans will
soon find a U.S. Census Bureau form in their mailboxes, it is
natural to wonder what the census measures, how the information is
used and why it is important to fill it out at all.
The census is mandated by the Constitution to
count everyone living in the United States, regardless of their
citizenship or immigration status. While the purpose is to take an
enumeration, the data collected from the forms is used by the
government to determine many other things.
First, the population of a state and areas within each state
determine representation in the House of Representatives. Thus, how
many seats each state will have in Congress, and how those
congressional district boundaries are redrawn after the next
election, will be guided by census figures. Even people living in a
given area temporarily, if counted on the census form, are in the
population count for that area.
A great amount of government funding for programs is based on
census statistics. Federal dollars are distributed based on the
population count in funding services including school lunch and Head
Start programs, education, transportation, health care, and job
training. Census results are also used to compile statistical
information for use in decision-making, such as planning future
locations of schools, fire and police departments, new roads,
hospitals, child-care and senior centers -- even where to locate
supermarkets, new housing, businesses and other facilities.
By federal law, every household in the United States must
participate in the 2010 census. One of the shortest census forms in
history, the 2010 census form asks 10 questions and takes about 10
minutes to complete. Census forms will be delivered or mailed to
households in March. Households should complete and mail back their
forms upon receipt. Census workers will visit households that do not
return forms, to take a count in person.
Personal household information collected on census forms is
protected by federal law and kept confidential for 72 years.
Immigration officials, the Internal Revenue Service and even the
White House are prohibited from access. All responses are safe and
confidential. By law, the Census Bureau cannot share respondents'
answers with anyone, including other federal agencies and law
enforcement entities. All Census Bureau employees take an oath of
nondisclosure and are sworn for life to protect the confidentiality
of the data. The penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of up to
$250,000 or imprisonment of up to five years, or both.
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Residents who do not complete a form after being sent one may be
sent an additional replacement form. If no form is mailed back,
residents can expect a personal visit from a census worker after
March. The census taker will ask the questions on the form, record
the answers and submit the form for that household.
Respondents are required by federal law to complete and return
the census form. A code of federal law states that anyone who fails
to submit required information, or does so falsely, may be fined up
There is not currently a way to fill out the form online, though
the Census Bureau is experimenting with that for the next census.
In areas served by the U.S. Postal Service, postal workers will
deliver the initial mailing in mid-March. In all other areas, census
takers will deliver the form packages between March 1 and April 30.
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
For more information about the 2010 census, visit
2010census.gov or call
[Text from file received from Ron
Part 1 of series:
A brief history of the U.S. Census and what to
expect with this year's form