US Census Background
The US census is required to be conducted every 10 years by Article I, Section 2 of the US Constitution. By law, the census must count every person residing in the United States: in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the Island Areas. This includes people of all ages, races, ethnic groups, citizens, and noncitizens, including illegal immigrants. US citizens living outside the United States are not required to respond to the census. The first census, counting 3.9 million people, was conducted in 1790 and has been carried out every 10 years since then. The last census, conducted in 2000, counted a total of 281.4 million people.
The US census is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce, a Cabinet-level agency.
Why Responding to the Census is Important
Your Voice in Washington: Population totals from Census 2010 will determine the number of seats each state holds in the US House of Representatives. Under this process, known as "apportionment," the number of seats in the House of Representatives has grown from 106 after the 1790 census, to 435 today. Through apportionment, states that grow in population may gain seats, while states with lowering populations may lose seats. By law, The U.S. Census Bureau must submit state population totals from Census 2010 to the President of the United States by December 31, 2010.How Census 2010 Will Work
Your Money: Cutting right to the chase, over $400 billion in federal funding is distributed to communities each year based to a large extent on the results of the US census. Besides affecting the total federal funding received by your community, data collected in the census is used by local governments to determine exactly how that money will be used.
Where the Jobs Go: Census data are used by the private sector as well as state and local governments to determine where new jobs and job development programs are needed.
Community Facilities and Services: Want a new hospital in your neighborhood? How about a new school, fire station or public library? Community planners and leaders use census data to decide where such essential facilities are most needed.
Consumers: Corporations large and small use census data for market research to determine the locations for new commercial enterprises, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential services. Potential homebuyers use census data to research property values, median income and other demographic information about a particular community or neighborhood.
Census 2010 will not be like Census 2000. Census 2010 will use only the short survey form, asking only 10 questions. The old and unpopular long census form is now being used only in the Census Bureau's American Communities Survey.
The Mail-back Census Questionnaire: During February and March 2010, a Census 2010 questionnaire will be mailed to every residential address in the nation. Hoping for a better response rate, the Census Bureau will use one of the shortest questionnaires in history. The 2010 Census questionnaire asks for name, gender, age, race, ethnicity, relationship, and whether the home is owned or rented. The Census Bureau estimates it will take only about 10 minutes for the average household to complete. (Samples: English, Bilingual) A second form will be mailed to households that do not respond to the initial questionnaire. Households that still fail to respond to the mail-back questionnaire can expect a visit from a Census worker.Census 2010 Jobs
Non-response Followup Visits: From April through July 2010, some 1.4 million Census workers will start making door-to-door visits to all households that failed to respond to the mail-back Census 2010 questionnaires. The Census worker will assist a member of the household -- who must be at least 15-years old -- in completing the Census 2010 survey form. Census workers can be identified by a badge and Census 2010 bag.
Responses are Required by Law: Under federal law, fines of up to $100 can be charged for failing to respond to the census, and up to $500 for lying on the census questionnaire.
Your Responses are Confidential: All responses to the US Census are protected by law (Title 13, U.S. Code, Section 9). All Census Bureau employees have taken an oath to protect confidentiality and are subject to a jail term, a fine - or both - for disclosing any information that could identify a respondent or household.
Beginning later in the fall of 2009, the Census Bureau will be accepting applications to hire some 1.4 million Census workers needed to conduct the post-census, non-response interviews. Hiring is expected to start in the spring of 2010.