Misinformation About the Census

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Written by: Director Robert Groves

Looking over the Internet – both blogs, comments to websites, and emails – I am seeing some misinformation about what individuals must report on the 2010 Census. It might be a good time to remind us all of these requirements.

Article 1, Section 2 of the US Constitution says: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers … The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.”

Congress has assigned to the Department of Commerce the responsibility of administering the census. This directive is embodied in Title 13, U.S. Code. Title 13 also specifies that Commerce, through the actions of the Census Bureau, must submit the topics planned for the census three years prior to the next census, and the actual questions two years prior to the next census. These milestones are the manifestations of the congressional direction regarding how the census will be conducted. For the 2010 Census, these actions took place in March 2007 and March 2008, respectively.

The current census has 10 questions, seven of them for each individual in the household. Title 13 includes the law that requires people to respond to the census, and to answer all questions. The idea that the only requirement of the census is to report the number of persons in the household is incorrect. All questions must, by law, be completed by all of us receiving the census form.

If a household reports the number of persons only, the form must be treated as incomplete and the Census Bureau will send a census taker to collect the full information on the form.

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63 Responses to Misinformation About the Census

  1. Dominic Bailin says:

    One of the concerns that some have, how will we know a legitimate census worker from someone else? Do census workers wear badges? Do census workers carry an id card?

  2. Efie says:

    Mr. Groves as you know Census 2010 is an important stepping stone for many communities in the U.S. As an assimilated immigrant of African decent I would like to encourage my community to participate in the upcoming census. However, due to the lack of appropriate resposne option in question number 9 “the race question”, many will feel that it is not a personal matter and opt out to not participate. In the past many previously have left the race box blank and written in their national origin under the form’s label of “some other race.” But as I understand according to one article that I read depending what country they’re from, they may or may not be counted as black because Census scanners are programmed to assign write-ins to a race for only a limited number of countries.
    Could you elaborate on the list of “limited countries”, and why is it limited, if it is in fact real?
    Thank you.

  3. kev@censusstaff says:

    Dominic,
    If you are visited by someone from the United States Census Bureau, here are some RECOGNITION TIPS to assure the validity of the field representative;
    -The census taker must present an ID badge that contains a Department of Commerce watermark and expiration date. The census taker may also be carrying a bag with a Census Bureau logo.
    -The census taker will provide you with supervisor contact information and/or the Local Census Office phone number for verification, if asked.
    -The census taker will ONLY ask you the questions that appear on the census form.
    What the 2010 Census DOES NOT Ask:
    -2010 Census takers will not ask you for your social security number, bank account number, or credit card number.
    -2010 Census takers also never solicit for donations and will never contact you by e-mail.

  4. zak ryerson says:

    You say that I am _”Required by law”_ to answer _all_ of the questions.
    What are the penalties, if any, for failure to answer?
    What are the penalties, if any, for answering falsely?
    And What actions, if any, is the U. S. Byreau of The Census taking and _willing to inform the public about_ in order to ensure that no person is conted twice _or more_?
    I will admit that I have an active imagination.
    Is it possible _to prove_ that tjher are no 30 to 40 year old individuals who have three quote valid end quote birth certificates which show that they were born to three difeerent sets of parents on three consecutive dates?
    The parents may have done that in order to triple the chance of the individual getting a _high_ draft lottery number! :)

  5. kev@censusstaff says:

    Efie,
    The Census Bureau does not tell individuals which boxes to mark or what heritage to write-in. An individual’s response to the race question is based upon self-identification. The Census Bureau collects race and Hispanic origin information following the guidance of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) standards for collecting and tabulating data on race and Hispanic origin. Many respondents write in national origins and ethnic groups in response to the decennial census question on race, and the OMB race definitions guide the Census Bureau in categorizing national origin or ethnic group write-in responses into one or more OMB race categories or into the “Some Other Race” category. It does not matter which write-in line a response appears in, the Census Bureau will be able to code and categorize the response.
    The 2010 Census race question does not use any design features such as write-in lines, special instructions, or examples designed to reliably elicit White or Black ethnic groups (e.g., German, Haitian, Iranian, Nigerian, etc.). Therefore, data on White or Black ethnic groups will not be produced for any standard 2010 Census data products. These groups will be included in the larger categories of “White” or “Black or African American.”
    Some of the White or Black ethnic groups provided in response to the 2010 Census race question receive a unique code when the data are processed, but not all national origin and ethnic groups have unique codes assigned. Information on White or Black ethnic groups is tabulated in the question on ancestry, which is collected and tabulated annually in the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Within this data, a number of Subsaharan African groups are tabulated in ACS ancestry tables, such as Ethiopian, Kenyan, and Somalian.
    Alternative formats for questions that collect race and ethnic data are being tested as part of the 2010 Census Alternative Questionnaire Experiment (2010 AQE). Some of the alternative formats include features specifically designed to elicit White and Black ethnic groups in response to the question on race. The results of this research will help inform future race and ethnic testing in preparation for the 2020 Census.

  6. moondaughter says:

    Hello, I am a recent (2004) immigrant from West Germany, and in the past I have read about previous censuses which provided numbers of people’s heritage and original cultures.
    Now that I read the 2010 form and its questions, I am astonished that nobody asks me about my culture, the language I speak at home etc. I am just being counted as “white” and then also as “non hispanic”.
    I am affiliated with several survey companies, whose commercial consumer surveys I am frequently answering, and I have already noticed that they make only differences between “hispanics” and “non hispanics.” And then, after that dividing, only then will they ask whether I am black or white or yellow or whatever.
    So does that mean the hispanics are getting really important now, really influential?
    Also interesting is the lack of religious questions. I was expecting to be asked about my non-christian faith, but just like the question about my spoken language, it is not being asked. How do these statistics come up which claim about 71% of Americans are christians, when in such a census this question is not being asked? I am in a minority, and as such I was of course hoping to increase the number of my “group”.

  7. steve says:

    question 8 on the forms info page says that one of the reasons for this question is so local gov. can plan and admin bilingual programs. Is English not the language in America? If you speak a different one, then learn ours…..

  8. Mathew "RennDawg" Renner says:

    I have a question. I feel that the goverment has no business asking 5 of the 10 questions. The census should not be used for money distrubition. They have no right to ask me personal questions about my genetic make up. I don’t believe in race. I am going to answer these questions and the phone number question with either NYOB (None Of Your Business) or NBBM (Nobody’s Business But Mine). I will fill it out of corse. I will make clear that I will not answer questions that are no one business.

  9. Rob says:

    My question is doesn’t the 14th amendment exclude non eligible voters, ie non citizens or those otherwise not eligible to vote from the count when determining numbers for representation? If so, how can you determine who is or is not a citizen without requiring that information or really without actual proof of citizenship?

  10. Rex says:

    Kev,
    I wish someone would explain why one’s race is relevant, and if so, then why are there so few race options available.
    Also, if one considers themselves a member of the human race, should their answer to this question be a mark in the “other” box, with an entry of “all of the above” or “human”?

  11. Jeff says:

    You are going to do more than me Mathew. I am going to tear mine up and mail it back to them!

  12. Anymous Person says:

    What about our right to remain silent? Our right to not answer any questions from any government agent?

  13. Pam says:

    Exactly Steve!

  14. Skeptic says:

    I don’t see the relevance of middle initial nor day of birth… these are red flags especially in combination with telephone # and street address… too much else can be dug up with this info… Still, it’s way less intrusive and impertinent than the 2000 census!!!

  15. Andy Nonomus says:

    Isn’t it true that in the 30-40 the census data was used to round up Japanise-Americans and put them into concentation camps?

  16. Ducky says:

    What part of do I own or rent a house is used to count me? Why is this question asked?

  17. Ducky,
    To learn about the history and purpose for each question, please go to http://2010.census.gov/2010census/how/interactive-form.php

  18. tom casper says:

    I tore up the 2000 census and will do the same with the present census

  19. Dee Applegate says:

    To apportion our congressional representatives (the real Constitutional reason for doing a census), why must I provide my race, home ownership, phone number, and other private information to a government I cannot trust? You already have this information collected and stored in numerous other surveys. The census is not for that purpose!

  20. Frank says:

    Skeptic, you are going in the right direction. As I responded to the Director’s blog, here are the problems I have with the questions. When I worked for the government as a manager, we were told that we COULD NOT require a job applicant to provide certain information on their application. And, we were to NEVER ask them for the same information during an interview. What were those taboo subjects? (See census Form questions 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10) If we could not ask because the applicant’s right to privacy was so important, then how can the Cesus ask the same questions?

  21. Randy says:

    I will provide only the number of people in the house, approximate ages and *perhaps* that we are all of European descent. All else, they can PURCHASE that information or do their own data mining of readily available information.

  22. Jeff says:

    Yeah Tom! Me too!

  23. Imnotasleep says:

    There is no misinformation, The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:
    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

  24. I just noticed that the census form distinguishes between biological and adopted children by asking “adoptive daughter/son” or biological daughter/son.
    This labeling of children is insulting, demeaning and and unnecessary. Legally there is no distinction.
    Had the form asked in a separate question something like “did the child come into the family through adoption” that would have been acceptable bececause it is not directly labeling the child
    I can not in good conscious answer that question so I am going to write in my own check box and title it daughter/son and then I will check that.
    But the Census Bureau should be ashamed to be so insensitive in the way it worded its form. You deserve to have people throw the form in the trash because of what you did.

  25. I received the following, and found it interesting:
    Enclose this letter when you mail in your Census. The Census Bureau can ONLY request the total number of occupants that reside at your address. These are YOUR Rights as per The Constitution Of The USA.
    Pursuant to Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution, the only information you are empowered to request is the total number of occupants at this address. My “name, sex, age, date of birth, race, ethnicity, telephone number, relationship and housing tenure” have absolutely nothing to do with apportioning direct taxes or determining the number of representatives in the House of Representatives. Therefore, neither Congress nor the Census Bureau have the constitutional authority to make that information request a component of the enumeration outlined in Article I, Section 2, Clause 3. In addition, I cannot be subject to a fine for basing my conduct on the Constitution because that document trumps laws passed by Congress…. Interstate Commerce Commission v. Brimson, 154 U.S. 447, 479 (May 26, 1894):
    “Neither branch of the legislative department [House of Representatives or Senate], still less any merely administrative body [such as the Census Bureau], established by congress, possesses, or can be invested with, a general power of making inquiry into the private affairs of the citizen. Kilbourn v. Thompson, 103 U.S. 168, 190. We said in Boyd v. U.S., 116 U. S. 616, 630, 6 Sup. Ct. 524,―and it cannot be too often repeated,― that the principles that embody the essence of constitutional liberty and security forbid all invasions on the part of government and it’s employees of the sanctity of a man’s home and the privacies of his life. As said by Mr. Justice Field in Re Pacific Ry. Commission, 32 Fed. 241, 250, ‘of all the rights of the citizen, few are of greater importance or more essential to his peace and happiness than the right of personal security, and that involves, not merely protection of his person from assault, but exemption of his private affairs, books, and papers from inspection and scrutiny of others. Without the enjoyment of this right, all others would lose half their value.’”
    This United States Supreme Court case has never been overturned.
    As Citizens, it is OUR duty to make sure that the Constitution remains Valid and Enforced.

  26. Imaboomer says:

    Look around at all of the services provided to the public (that’s all of you folks) and you will see differences in what’s provided, according to your different cultural, age, and special requirements. Government is by the people, for the people; this phrasing may be familiar to you. It’s about people. Data must be collected so that government can do for you; this includes federal, state, county, city, borough, and township gov’t. Most people are unaware of the federal funding that supports many of the services you use, be it directly or indirectly from the federal gov’t, and ultimately coming from taxes that the people pay, to be redistributed for the common good. The money has to come from SOMEWHERE.
    The creators of the Arpanet and Tim Berners Lee could not have guessed what it all would turn into. With (naughty) hackers and viruses, it very difficult to protect individual information security on the ‘net. Read up on Title 13, which governs the work done by the Census Bureau. http://www.census.gov/geo/www/luca2010/luca_title13.html

  27. I wondering who has read the Census questions…is it me or does anyone see something wrong with questions 8 & 9 and specially the “Note” ‘…For this census, Hispanic origins are not races.’ WHAT???? What race am I suppose to BE?????

  28. The U.S. Constitution empowers the Congress to carry out the census in “such manner as they shall by Law direct” (Article I, Section 2). In 1954, Congress codified earlier census acts and all other statutes authorizing the decennial census as Title 13, U.S. Code. Please visit http://2010.census.gov/2010census/why/constitutional.php to read more about the census in the Constitution.
    If a person sends back an incomplete census form, the Census Bureau will send an enumerator to his or her household to conduct a personal interview to obtain the information.
    Remember: You save the taxpayer money by returning a completed form. The cost of obtaining a mailed-back census form: $0.42; cost of obtaining a household’s census responses in person if the household doesn’t mail back a completed form: $57.

  29. Alicia Juarez-Garcia,
    The Census Bureau collects race and Hispanic origin information in
    order to provide data required by various federal programs, laws
    and regulations, as codified by the Office of Management and
    Budget’s (OMB) guidance on collecting and tabulating information
    on race and Hispanic origin.
    We collect data as guided by the OMB statistical policy directive. OMB defines these guidelines for consistency across federal programs.

  30. enumerator says:

    Well, if you are doing that in response to big government, be assured that you are thereby contributing to it. If you don’t return your Census form, an enumerator will come to your door to find out why and to collect the information. It is to your benefit to fill it out. It provides the necessary information to apportion Congressional representatives and direct tax monies. All Census workers take an oath for life to never divulge any information about any respondents, and the Census bureau likewise never shares the information with any other company or government agency. Just fill it out, fer cryin’ out loud.

  31. Upset with Birth Date request says:

    You are right on. Too much information about a person in one file can be used for identity theft. There is no way, we can be guaranteed hackers will not get into our personal data and use it for their personal gain.

  32. Stella says:

    Okay….so the enumerator comes to my door. I still don’t want to give out date of birth, etc., just names and numbers in household. What will the enumerator do? What can he do? And regarding taking an “oath” — are you KIDDING me? Were you just born????? God grief….. I think THAT scares me the most….that you think by taking an “oath” nothing can happen. Wake up PLEASE!!!!

  33. wife and mother says:

    You cannot be serious!!!! Are census workers not human beings subject to the same temptations as the rest of us? Wow to think that the government would inspire that kind of loyalty for $13 an hour. Further, if my information and the information of countless others is not being used for any other reason, then please explain the increase in telemarketers and unsolicited mail offers. Save that crap for the people who should not be included in the census anyway. They sure do have you fooled. My recommendation is to step away from the kool-aid.

  34. wife and mother says:

    Correction, you could save the taxpayer money by not sending the enumerators out to residences that have already submitted there forms. Oh wait, that’s right, it is your absolute desire to waste taxpayers money with this and to ensure your own job security, however temporary. Please save your “Standardized Responses” and just tell the truth.

  35. Sarolite says:

    Actually, no, English is not the official language of America.

  36. Sarolite says:

    Actually, you’re thinking of the right not to incriminate oneself. That doesn’t really apply here.

  37. Sarolite says:

    If the government wanted to steal your identity, they could have done so by now. ;) You think that data isn’t already in other government databases?

  38. Sarolite says:

    If you’re concerned that the enumerator won’t keep your data private, then perhaps you should mail it in. Ultimately, it’s probably more secure that way.

  39. Sarolite says:

    My family wrote it in under “Other.”

  40. CivicsTeacher says:

    I am glad that participation in the Census is so high in my state. Since so many people living in other parts of the U.S. are promising not to let the gov’t count them, maybe my state will get to have ANOTHER Congressional district!!!! Woo hoo! More representation for us wholesome Great Lakes progressives in Washington! More funding for our libraries, schools, roads, parks, electrical infrastructure, internet, law enforcement, airports…
    But seriously, people–be counted. We, The People, all deserve equal representation in our democratic government.

  41. Red says:

    Actually, yes it is.
    Red

  42. Red says:

    We do not have a democratic government….
    It is a republic.
    Red

  43. someone says:

    honestly you dont think that information is public already?

  44. someone says:

    yes

  45. CountMeIn says:

    Other than the Congress itself, the Census is the first entity established in the Constitution (before the Presidency, Supreme Court, etc.). When the first census was taken in 1790, the US Govenment had yet to levy its first tax on its own citizens. When that tax, the whisky tax, was met with armed resistance on the frontier in 1794, President Washington couldn’t respond with an army because the US didn’t have one, the Continental Army having been disbanded after the revolution. He relied upon 12,000 militia provided by various states in order march on western Pennsylvania to quell the revolt.
    The census (names and all), is more American than taxes!

  46. Susan says:

    What are the penalties for not answering the cenus?? Also, as an enumerator I have been to at least 150 houses. Sure it is a temp job, I have taken an oath and do you think I want to remember how many people are in your home and your name, birth date etc. I am getting so digusted by the lack of citizenship. PLEASE answer your cenus forms.

  47. Censusworker says:

    As a census enumerator who also worked at one time for State Government, and who also has worked on my geneology for over 12 years, I can tell you that the only things used publicly in the Census (for statistical purposes) are ages and ethnicities in regions of each State. While working for the State we were determining where money would be alloted for new Senior Centers, Meals-on-Wheels, Nursing/Assisted Living Homes, Adult Day Care centers, Home Health Services, etc., and to determine how many elderly or those close to retirement were in a region. No names or addresses or birthdates were used. We did that by pulling up 2000 Census data. The Census has been going on since 1790, and my kinfolk have been partaking since that time, as I have found using Census records to research my family. Census data is published publicly after 72 years. I WANT my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to know where their ancestors came from! Your bank and credit card agency sells your personal information to third parties – Census NEVER has done so.

  48. Censusworker says:

    Randy, so you have no problem with your government spending MORE taxpayer’s money. Hmmm.

  49. Censusworker says:

    The articles of the Constitution proclaim the formation of the Census right after the roles of Representatives and the Senate. This was done during the formation of the Federal Government in the late 1700′s. A very, very small Government at that. How exciting when I found out through searching census records that I am related to Washington, Jefferson, Crockett, Daniel Boone, and Lincoln as well as other notables. How many of you have looked back at old census records to find your ancestors and cousins?

  50. Censusworker says:

    In Article 1, Section 2, the Constitution includes the phrase:
    [An] Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.
    Congress first met in 1789, and the first national census was held in 1790.
    There was actually some debate about whether, how, and on what timetable a census should have been held. In early 1790, several members of Congress argued against a census prior to the next election. Some in the Congress, who advocated an immediate census, noted that those who did not want one were the people from states which were generally regarded as being over-represented in the Congress based on the initial figures provided for in the Constitution. Others were concerned about the questions to be asked in the census, while others felt that more questions should be asked to get a better picture of the citizenry.
    For example, on February 2, 1790, Samuel Livermore of New Hampshire lamented that the proposed question about profession would be hard for his constituents to answer, since some had three or four professions, depending on the season. Connecticut Representative Theodore Sedgwick, on the same day, wondered why the questions were not extended further — “The state of society could be ascertained, perhaps, in some degree, by observing [the] proportions.”
    The final bill, Statute 2 of March 1, 1790, provided that census marshals and assistants be appointed. The marshals were directed to:
    cause the number of the inhabitants within their respective districts to be taken; omitting in such enumeration Indians not taxed, and distinguishing free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, from all others; distinguishing also the sexes and colours of free persons, and the free males of sixteen years and upwards from those under that age.
    The act directed that the names of the heads of families be recorded, the number of white males sixteen and older, the number of white males under sixteen, the number of white females, the number of all other free persons, and the number of slaves. Failure of an assistant marshal to make a return, or to make a false return, was punishable by a $200 fine. Failure of a marshal to do the same was punishable by a fine of up to $800. The questions about profession, and other information Representative Sedgwick spoke of, were not made part of the final census. Census day was set at the first Monday in August, 1790. Failure to cooperate with a marshal or assistant was punishable by a $20 fine.
    Today, the controlling law for the U.S. Census is Title 13 of the U.S. Code That law requires that the census be conducted on or about April 1, 1980, and every ten years after that. The returns must be made available within nine months in order to apportion members of the House of Representatives to each of the states. In the intervening years the law requires the Census Bureau to gather statistics about the residents of the United States for use by Congress. The decennial census is provided for at 13 USC 141.
    The law states that the count done in 1980 and every ten years thereafter shall be an actual headcount. The count done in the intervening years need not be an actual headcount, but may use statistical sampling methods to get a reasonable approximations of a head count.
    There are fines for non-response and for false response as well, though the amount has risen from the 1790′s $20. Today failure to respond can result in a $100 fine; providing false answers is a more severe offense, and carries a $500 fine… The controlling section of the Code is 13 USC 221.
    Today, all persons are counted as whole persons — the original census counted “other persons” (slaves) as three-fifths persons for the purposes of apportionment. This fractionalization was removed by the 14th Amendment. The Attorney General ruled, in 1940, that there were no longer any Indians in the United States who could be classified as “not taxed.” In the Constitution, non-taxed Indians are not counted.

  51. Censusworker says:

    It is a democratic republic. There was no such thing as republicans until the mid-1800′s.

  52. Ofcr Crum says:

    Actually, that is done for geneology purposes.

  53. Christine Tibbits says:

    Fact or Myth?
    My husband heard that US Census temporary workers are hired and then fired at the end of each day. They are then re-hired the next day, so that the government can count each new hire as job growth.
    Could you please clarify this fact or myth?

  54. yoyo says:

    I’m a census taker and that is a myth. I have not been fired daily.

  55. yoyo says:

    I am a census taker and that is a myth. I have not been fired once while doing this job.

  56. Dan the Veteran says:

    It is because of citizenship that I have chosen to only answer how many live in my home. Obama doesn’t need any more information about me and my family. I’ve been in every census since 1960, but when emperor Obama took the non-partisan Bureau into his grubby hands, for his personal agenda, I have chosen minimal participation as have many elected officials. vetren

  57. Get it right says:

    A republic is merely a form of government in which elected representatives of the people hold office. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with the Republican Party.

  58. Im afraid it’s not a myth that the census takers have been fired now.

  59. Angry says:

    Rex,
    The reason it is important is so they know which groups to keep handing government money out to. The minorities of America are very smart, they don’t fill out the census, or they fill it out incorrectly. I for one, living in Florida, know for a fact that black people and hispanics make up more of our population that what is being reported, and yet they continue to get Royal treatment when it comes to hand outs. We have become the minority and it’s high time the government takes notice. Get jobs citizens of Florida, get off your butts, I’m tired of paying for your food stamps and cash assistance. Governor Rick Scott wants us to stop contributing to the State workers, teachers, firemen, and law enforcement’s retirement but I’d much rather do that than pay for these low lives. I participated in the Census as I think it’s extemely important for future generations to find their ancestors. Sadly, it’s not accurate!

  60. Robert says:

    Yes, the government started within DAYS of Dec 7th to give Names and Addresses to Hoovers Goons to “Detain” American citizens of Japannese back-ground

  61. Al says:

    Go ask the Japannesse Americans how they feel about aftr being rounded up ??

  62. Rose B says:

    Census employees are not “fired”, they are released from work which is temporary, part-time and intermittent. That release must come at the end of the census “season”, or they would be permanent employees, taking more of the government’s (your) money.
    And, YES, I did send in my questionnaire the same day I received it.
    RB

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