Monday, September 14, 2009

The 2010 US Census - Part of Our History, Part of Our Future

Recently I have heard a lot of discussion regarding the upcoming 2010 census.  You may wonder why I would cover such a topic in my Prepared Binder Blog, but as the census is a vital record gathering tool, I felt it was appropriate.

Many people are concerned about the information gathered by the census.  They are also concerned about who will be collecting it and who will see the final results.  After a little poking around on the web I thought I would clear up a few pieces of misinformation.

What is the Census? The United States Census is required by the United States Constitution (Article 1, Section 2) and was first conducted in 1790. In the simplest form, the census is needed to count the population of the country.  The population data is used to determine representation in the federal government.  As a side fact, the original house of representatives only had 65 members.  After the 1790 census that number increased to 106.  Congress capped the number of representatives at 435 in 1911.  Now those representatives are divided based on population of individual states in the country.

Why should I participate in the Census? The first compelling reason is that it is required by law.  If that doesn't move you to action, then maybe a few other reasons will.  Information gathered by the census helps the government allocate resources. Education funding for schools and programs is determined by census data.  Hospital construction, roadway construction and even job training programs are funded with information obtained from the census. If you are not counted in the census you are reducing the amount of resources that come into your community.

Census data is also used as a genealogical resource, and is one of the most important resources we have.  Before you get too worried about breaches in your privacy, information identifying individuals must be kept confidential for 72 years, which means the 1930 census was only released in 2002.  Any personal information gathered about you or your family in the 2010 census cannot be released until 2082.

What is on the census form? The 2010 United States Census official record date is April 1, 2010 and unlike the 2000 census will not include a long form.  Yep, you heard correctly, there will only be a short form.  The long form of the past has been reformatted as the American Community Survey, which is randomly sent out to different households every year.

Take a look at the US Census Bureau's report detailing the questions included in the 2010 Census and the American Community Survey.  The report specifies why each question is being asked, it also tells you how long the question has been asked on past census forms.

Who collects Census information? Per the US Census Bureau's web site, "The Census Bureau will mail or deliver questionnaires to your house in March 2010. We will mail a second form to households that do not respond to the initial questionnaire.  Households that still do not respond will be called or visited by a Census worker. (Census workers can be identified by a census badge and bag.)"

So the answer to that question, is YOU.  If you fill out the form and send it back in you should not see a census worker unless they need clarification on your answers.

Okay, so now we have answered the most basic questions about the 2010 US Census.  If you have more questions you can check out the US Census Bureau website.  Being counted is an important part of life in a community.  We know that censuses have been taken for thousands of years and that information gathered about us and our families will help allocate resources where they are most needed. 

Censuses are an amazing thing.  They allow each of us to become a documented part or our nation's history, while at the same time they allow us to determine the future of our representation and federal funding.  When the 2010 census arrives in your mailbox I encourage you to fill it out and return it. Be part of our history.  Be part of our future.

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