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It’s that time of the decennial again, when the federal government starts sending out census questionnaires to millions of residents. And the government is urging everyone — especially people of color — to fill out their forms and get counted.
“Historically, African Americans have been reluctant to participate in the census in the past,” says Arnold Jackson, associate director for the 2010 census. “Other than voting, I’m not sure anything is as important-the census helps dictate who represents us and where federal dollars are spent in our communities.”
Unfortunately, the 2000 Census missed an estimated one million people of color and also undercounted low-income people and children.
The 2010 Census will ask for your name, gender, age, race, ethnicity, relationship, and whether you own or rent your home — the simple questions will take about 10 minutes to answer, he says. (Sample questionnaire)
The Constitutionally mandated census is conducted every 10 years and counts every resident in the United States. The census will help communities receive more than $400 billion in federal funds each year and also help determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“We’ve made progress on reducing the differential undercount, but it is extremely for any group that is concerned about equal representation to participate,” says Jackson.
By March, the 10-question census form will be delivered to every residence in the United States and Puerto Rico. The federal government would like the form mailed back by April 1. If the form isn’t returned, you may receive a visit from a census taker, who will ask you the questions from the form. Though the majority — 90% — of forms will be mailed, the census bureau will also send out staff to areas where is not delivered to residences uniformly and areas that historically have a low rate of return of questionnaires to conduct interviews.
Jackson says that the census is safe and people should not be fearful of filling out the form. By law, the Census Bureau can’t share an individual’s responses with anyone. All Census Bureau employees take an oath of nondisclosure and are sworn for life to protect the confidentiality of the data. The penalty for violating the oath is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment of up to 5 years, or both.
“For every one percent increase in mail response, about $85 million in taxpayer dollars are saved,” says Kamille A. Davis, a public information office for the census bureau.
(Continued on next page: FAQs and Key Census Dates)