2010 is a census year -- and right around now, the government is mailing you a form to fill out. A census, which must be taken every 10 years as per the Constitution, counts how many residents there are in the U.S.
Stacks of forms asking tons of mundane questions may come to mind when you think of a census. Who has the time for all that? But here’s why you need to participate, how to keep a census taker from knocking on your door, and how long it really takes (good news: not long).
How many questions are on the census form -- and how long will it take to complete?
The census form (pictured below) has 10 questions, and should take about 10 minutes to complete. The form will NOT ask for social security numbers or citizenship status. The form cannot be filled out online. The Census Bureau recommends using April 1 -- also (coincidentally) "National Census Day" -- as the date to use to mail your form back in.
What will the government do with the census information?
The information is used to calculate how many people reside in the U.S. -- which helps determine how $400 billion of federal funding will be used for hospitals, schools, senior centers, bridges and tunnels, emergency services and job training centers, and to predict how many people will be needing Social Security or Medicare benefits. It also determines how many seats your state gets in the House of Representatives.
What happens if I forget to mail the form back?
Since you are required by law to participate in the census, if you don't fill out and mail back your form, a census taker will contact you by telephone, mail or even in person up to six times. Census takers will not email you. If they come in person, a census taker can pay you a visit in the afternoons, early evenings or during the weekend.
How can I tell if a census worker is legitimate?
Census workers will have ID badges (pictured below), a handheld device, a Census Bureau canvas bag, and a notice of confidentiality. Census workers will present you with the same 10-question form you received in the mail, and they will NOT ask for social security numbers, citizenship status, or any banking or credit information.
How can I get my kids involved in the census process?
All infants and children should be counted in the census. According to the Census Bureau, children have been undercounted in every census since 1790. Seeing as how census info is used for schools, it's important to make sure the kiddos are included!
Got a Dora fan in the house? If she happens to be particularly curious about the census form (as all kids are, natch), you can download a Dora-themed fact sheet that explains census basics to kids. Nickelodeon will also air a public awareness campaign on counting kids in the census, featuring the pint-sized explorer.
Go to 2010.census.gov for more information on this year's census.