Written by: Director Robert Groves
I do frequent talk radio interviews that ask about the basics of the 2010 Census. Why do we do a Census? Why is it important? When will we get the questionnaire?
One question I often get is why the 2010 Census asks about income and employment – and a host of other things that it will not ask. In fact, the 2010 Census will ask only how many people are living in each household, their names, relationship to the owner or renter, date of birth, gender, ethnicity, race, and whether persons listed on the form sometimes live elsewhere. The 2010 Census form is one of the shortest in history – 10 questions that take about 10 minutes to answer. It asks the minimum necessary to fulfill key legal mandates.
The common misperception that the 2010 Census will ask a lot of questions probably comes from what the Census Bureau does in addition to the decennial Census. Every year the Census Bureau collects data for many other federal agencies about important parts of the economy and society – how much consumers are spending on different products, whether people are victimized by crime, whether they’re suffering from various health problems, whether their homes are in need of repair, and whether they are employed and have enough income to live good lives. These questions are asked in our sample surveys of only a few households each month.
When decennial census time rolls around, the public sometimes gets confused about the decennial census in relation to other surveys. If a Census Bureau interviewer calls on your household before March, he or she may be conducting one of our other sample surveys. Each survey is mandated by law in order to evaluate government programs – it’s part of the way a democracy informs the citizenry about how it’s doing.