2010 US Census
The 2010 US Census has been the subject of much controversy as a result of the announcement that the organization ACORN would be participating to help gather census information, and receiving millions of dollars of taxpayer money in return. ACORN's involvement in the U.S. census was cancelled after undercover videos exposed ACORN employees telling someone how to skirt US tax laws, among other things.
In keeping with our goal of helping you protect yourselves from scams and unscrupulous activities, we are providing this information about the 2010 US Census to keep you better informed about legitimate census activities, so you can protect your families from census scams.
The US Constitution requires the government to count every resident in the United States, every 10 years. One of the purposes for the collection of this information is to help determine the number of seats your state has in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Why does the Census count illegal aliens?
Many people are concerned that areas with large numbers of non-citizens, particularly those who have entered this country illegally, will receive a disproportionate share of federal funds, as well as more power in the halls of Congress.
The Census Bureau web site explains their enumeration requirement this way:
"The U.S. Constitution mandates us to count everyone, including both citizens and non-citizens. We’ve followed this mandate since the first census in 1790. The Framers of the Constitution made it clear they wanted "all inhabitants" of the country counted in the U.S. Census, and every Presidential Administration since that time that has overseen a Census has interpreted the Constitution and the laws require everyone be counted."
However, when we went directly to the source, the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 2, we didn't find any reference, much less a "clear" one, to counting all "inhabitants." Here's what the Article I, Section 2 (as modified by the 14th Amendment after the abolition of slavery) actually says:
"Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed."
Presumably, a reasonable interpretation of "persons in each state," would include every person present in the state, regardless of citizenship status. But would that provide an accurate representation? Do we include visitors staying in hotels? No. We count members of households in that state, so that restricts the counting to those who "inhabit" the state. In fact, the Census Bureau even has special procedures to count the homeless, and those who live in campgrounds, marinas, or other "unusual" housing.
What else are census numbers used for?
The 2010 Census will also help distribute more than $400 billion in federal funds each year for things like:
- Job training centers
- Senior centers
- Emergency services
- Bridges, tunnels and other public works projects
How does the census work?
For several months, census workers have been traveling all known and new streets and roads to identify every structure where people live or could potentially live to update the address list and maps used by the Census Bureau. For the first time, the 2010 Census has used handheld GPS devices to collect GPS coordinates for each structure to make sure it is recorded in the correct location. Census workers also confirmed, added and deleted addresses using a GPS-equipped handheld computer, all to ensure a complete and accurate address list for delivering the 2010 Census questionnaire.
In March 2010, Census forms will be mailed or delivered to every household in the United States. April 1, 2010, has been named "National Census Day," and the Census Bureau is encouraging everyone to mail their completed forms back by this date.
From April through July 2010, Census workers will visit households that did not return their form by mail. So if you return your form by mail, it is less likely that a Census worker will ring your doorbell. Returning the form right away helps ensure you won't be bothered by someone ringing the doorbell to ask questions. The Census Bureau must deliver population information it collected to the President by December 2010 for apportionment.
Do I have to participate and answer the questions?
The short answer is Yes. According to federal law (U.S. Code, Title 13, Section 221), failure or refusal to answer the census questionnaire subjects you to a fine of not more than $100. And if you decide to be cute and provide false information, it provides for a fine of not more than $500.
An interesting sidenote: That section also provides that you cannot be compelled to answer, in connection with a Census, questions concerning your "religious beliefs" or "membership in a religious body."
What questions does the Census ask?
The 2010 census has been simplified, eliminating questions about family income and other indicators of socio-economic status, in response to concerns about privacy. The 2010 Census form asks just 10 questions:
- How many people live or stay at this address as of April 1, 2010?
- Were there any additional people staying here on April 1, 2010, that you did not include in Question 1 (such as visiting relatives, baby-sitters, etc.)?
- Is this home owned, rented, or occupied without paying rent?
- What is your phone number? (So they can contact you if your form is incomplete.)
- What is the name of each person living at this address?
- What is the sex of the head of household listed above as Person 1? This information is asked because many federal programs differentiate between males and females for funding, implementing and evaluating their programs.
- What is Person 1's age and date of birth? This question helps the federal, state and local governments forecast things such as the number of people eligible for Social Security or Medicare benefits.
- Is Person 1 of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin? This information is requested to help federal agencies monitor compliance with anti-discrimination provisions. State and local governments used this data to help plan and administer bilingual programs.
- What is Person 1's race? This question has been asked since 1790. Race information is needed to monitor compliance with the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. State governments use the data to determine congressional, state and local voting districts.
- Does Person 1 sometimes live or stay somewhere else?
That's it. No questions about income and no request for social security numbers. And no questions about whether you're in the country legally.
The forms cannot be completed online, because of concerns about the privacy of your information. You must complete the form and mail it back in the envelope that will be enclosed for that purpose. The Census Bureau is exploring the possibility of online or e-mail responses by the 2020 Census.
If a Census worker visits your home
If a census worker visits your home, here's what you should do:
- First ask to see their ID. Legitimate census workers will carry official government badges marked with just their name; they may also have a bag that says "U.S. Census Bureau."
- Note that the census taker will never ask to enter your home. If someone claims to be from the census and asks to come inside your home, call 911.
- If you're still not certain about their identity, call the Regional Census Center to confirm this person is employed by the Census Bureau. (Here's a thought: If they're not really from the Census, and you close the door to go call to check on their employment, chances are good they won't still be at the door when you get back. If that happens, call 911.)
- Answer the census form questions for your entire household (you must be at least 15 to answer questions) so the census taker can record the results and submit them to the Census Bureau.
If a census taker comes when you are not home, they will leave a door hanger with a contact number. You can call and schedule their return visit for a convenient time.