A Proud Day For The Census

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Written by: Director Robert Groves

Yesterday was a wonderful day for the country. The Justice Department responded to some concerns about the confidentiality of census data by expressing their view that no provision of the Patriot Act overrides the confidentiality law that protects census data. This legal position agrees with the long-held views of the Census Bureau and the Commerce Department.

We are tasked by the Constitution to provide a true snapshot of the nation as a whole and, with this assurance by the Justice Department, we will be better able to get a true picture.

Thus, everyone living in the country, receiving a census form over the next few days, can fill out the form and mail it back knowing that the answers they provide will not be shared with any other agency, at the local, state, or federal level.

Please submit any questions pertaining to this post to ask.census.gov

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44 Responses to A Proud Day For The Census

  1. Traci says:

    It is NOT a proud day when you realize the complete lack of fiscal responsibility in the decision by some idiot to spend the money the necessary to send letters to every citizen stating that “the census will be arriving in 7-10 days and you need to fill it out”! What a ridiculous WASTE of yet more taxpayer dollars. I want to know who’s decision this was and WHY??????

  2. Golden says:

    I agree totally Traci. I don’t like the questions at all. Our Washington at work again.

  3. SC says:

    Based on the Census Bureau 2006-2008 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates, there are approximately 112,386,298 households in the U.S. Assuming conservatively that the federal government cost to deliver one of these “The Census is on the way” letters to every household is in the neighborhood of $10, you just spent roughly $1.1 billion dollars to produce and deliver something that will be thrown away as soon as it is received.
    The waste is staggering. How do you justify it?

  4. Joe Citizen says:

    Imagine that. The Executive Branch of the Federal Government agreed with the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. That is what is considered a wonderful day for the country. No wonder this country is in the shape it’s in…

  5. SC,
    We have extensive research that shows additional mailings alerting households to the arrival of the census form increase response rates by about 6 to 12 percentage points. The savings from that increase more than pay for these mailings. It costs about $85 million to print and mail the advance letter and reminder postcard. The potential increase in response rates demonstrated by our research could result in a savings of more than $500 million.

  6. RAY W. says:


  7. Michael Dorstewitz says:

    I also agree; private information should remain private and not the business of the government no matter how well-intentioned they may be. Let’s face it; government employees cannot be trusted and here’s a supreme example. I just received a notice from the US Census Bureau telling me that they will be sending me my 2010 census form shortly. What kind of a moron wastes taxpayer dollars sending me something that tells me they’re going to send me something!?

  8. bud says:

    if you want a true snapshot then why is there a question about hispanic ethnicity and not anybody elses? if your going to ask about ethnicity then ask averybodys ethnicity. how many european decent, african decent, middle east decent. Why just hispanic….

  9. Bud,
    The data in this question are needed by federal agencies to monitor compliance with anti-discrimination provisions. For the history and purpose of each question, please visit: http://2010.census.gov/2010census/how/interactive-form.php

  10. Pete says:

    ACS Survey and Cencus are two different surveys. US Constitiution says we only have to answer #1 and that’s all I will answer.

  11. Jason Grenn says:

    I am disgusted by your use of “federal” funding as a motivation for citizens responding to the census. The census is meant to quantify our representation by population distribution. You are basically hanging out the carrot of federal funding as if our government doesn’t take every penny away from us, the taxpaying citizens before they can give it to anyone for anything You are promoting a horribly misleading and unconstitutional idea that our federal government s supposed to take money from some of its citizens and redistribute that money as it sees fit You are running a vile confidence game to promote a simple tool to keep representation current with population. If you were worthy of your job you could successfully appeal to our patriotism.

  12. Frank says:

    Pete, you are right on the money. The census is to determine how many people there are, and nothing else. The Feds don’t need the other information they ask for because they already have it. Besides, do they really think some illegal alien living in a house or apartment is going to send them a form giving them all that information? As usual, they will get responses from those people who obey the law, and no one else. And, some of the “reasons” they give for asking those other questions is an insult to anyone with intelligence.

  13. mary says:

    I agree w/Pete. If a census is counting people, all they really need is names of people living in a residence, and that is generous, thsy only need the number of people in household. Mary

  14. Ann Wernecke says:

    Just so you know — many folks are wondering why the federal government sent a letter (a very expensive letter I might add) communicating that we will receive another letter in a week regarding the 2010 Census that we need to respond to. I needed that money to go towards my school system (Prince William County) where the attendance continues to grow significantly and the budget continues to be cut. Use 2010 communication tools that are more cost effective!

  15. How racist? Your bigoted reply imagines only people of non-white color are discriminated against. People of white color are discriminated against every day, and this census question is further proof of it!

  16. Zuzu says:

    Bravo, Justice Department, for assuaging fears about data confidentiality issues! If these fear prevent people from returning their form we can’t get an accurate census. Of course there will still be people who worry, but it’s wonderful to see that the issue has been aired and there’s a public statement about how the data can and cannot be used.
    I’d also like to contribute–having been involved in survey research–that sending out the kinds of advance letters (and follow-up postcards) the Census Bureau is sending is standard operating procedure. Materials like these make a real difference in response rate, which often makes or breaks your entire effort. It’s difficult to get a response rate to a survey that even gives you a statistically significant portion of a population you’re trying to study. It’s nearly impossible to get 100% of your target population, and that’s exactly what the Census Bureau is tasked with doing. They have a massive job on their hands.
    If you look at their timeline (http://2010.census.gov/2010census/how/key-dates.php), it shows that after the deadline for mailing back forms has passed, actual people have to go to the houses that haven’t submitted their forms to count who lives there. The cost of that is staggering compared to sending out the very advance letter and follow-up postcard that could prevent such a visit — and accompanying expenditure of tax dollars.
    So though it’s not immediately obvious if you’ve haven’t been a part of similar projects, the letters really are reducing costs. 🙂

  17. Doris says:

    Research DOES show that letters telling people they’ll get a survey, of any type, increases their response, and cuts down on the total cost of the research. The census IS hugely important to our country, for many reasons. Not only does it help school systems get more federal dollars and reapportion House districts, it helps provide other federal dollars in a fair manner to all kinds of programs. We all want less government, except when it benefits us personally, when we want more government. The census helps us get the government programs WE HAVE COMING TO US. So let’s fill it out, all of it. Another aspect some of us appreciate, or our descendants will appreciate, is that it’s a huge help to genealogists. Your grandchildren, and their grandchildren, will be able to find out where you lived, and who was in your family, in 2010. You may think that’s not important now, but future generations of your family may. That information may not be disclosed, by Act of Congress, for 72 years after each census is taken. The 1930 census is now available, and the 1940 is due to be released as soon after 2012 as the Census Bureau can process it. If you don’t respond to the 2010 census, not only do you keep your community from getting all the benefits it has coming to it, you keep your family in the future from knowing about who you were and where you were in 2010. So fill it out, honestly and completely. Doing so benefits you!

  18. Jeff says:

    Exactly right Traci! This is just one of the many reasons why I am throwing mine in the trash and refuse to answer anything!

  19. George says:

    In 1980, my wife and I spent three days gathering information and filling out a very long form that was sent to only a few households in each area. A few weeks after we had hand delivered it to the local Post Office, a older woman rang my doorbell. She was a Census worker and the first thing out of her mouth was, “You are going to jail for not filing your census form”. I informed her that we had indeed filed our form and to get the hell off my property. I also told her not to return without a Police Officer in tow to arrest me. The next day I got a phone call from her Supervisor and she too told me I was going to jail and how dare me to tell her worker to get off my property. The first woman came back two or three times trying to get me to fill out a form. I refused. Finally, a woman that called claiming to be the local Director. She asked me to fill out the form and explained that the local office had lost over 300 of these long forms. She answered yes that her employees knew that their office had lost my form along with all the rest prior to telling me I was going to jail. I dug my heels in and refused to fill out a form. I told her there was a man and woman in the home and that she already had our names and hung up.
    THERE IS NO WAY I WILL EVER FILE ANOTHER CENSUS FORM, take me to jail. In my case, who knows who had my form with income, banking and other personal information; all I know is that the Census Bureau didn’t protect the information.

  20. Bob says:

    Why did the Census folks have to threaten in big black letters on the front of the envelope? (YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW) And inside directions state (again in heavy black letters) “Please complete and mail back the enclosed census form today.” I know this may seem picky but if I was taken to court for mailing this tomorrow, not today(?), the government would call this proper notification and would claim I’m in violation. Guess if I mail it tomorrow I’m a crook or a terrorist?

  21. Veronica says:

    $85 million (that could have been saved) for a “potential” increase in response rates, that “could” result in $500 million savings?
    What a joke! That “advance letter” is a flat out example of the waste of taxpayer money!

  22. Bob says:

    Bull…..illegals are being counted, with no requirement to prove citienship. That means your census is killing me in % of government money if my state does not have as many illegals as another state.

  23. Big Guy says:

    This just means that the “MAN” is watching u so they know what you are doing. So they can crush you down and still get their take. Everyone should RUSH Washington D.C. on April 1 FOOL’S Day 2010. My family has nothing to hide, I am a carpenter,just like Jesus my wife is a Catholic school teacher,just like Jesus. Wake up people you need to answer to no one but “GOD” Take a look at this world and tell me I am wrong. I am a Father of 2 and have many great times with my family and GOD so tell the GOV. Kiss my Blarney.
    God Bless Us All.
    Ed BigGuy.

  24. Texan says:

    My phone number is MY BUSINESS. I pay for it. And I do not have to disclose to anyone! Not even the Feds! And constitutionally I only have to tell you how many people live at my house. And if they are over 18 and what sex.
    So Fuggetaboutit!
    You also may NOT trespass on my land when so marked! Try it!

  25. Jane says:

    Kev must be a politician – they are the only ones that answer a question with a non-answer. If the data is needed to monitor compaliance, are the hispanics the only ones our government are worried about????

  26. DH says:

    okay Kev – but, tell me how my response will determine discriminatory practices in my community – also, why isn’t my age enough – why do you need to know my DOB – there are concerns everywhere about identity theft and the USPS is one of the places these thieves gather information – if my form is mishandled my entire family’s personal information will be at risk.

  27. The census information can not be considered confidential. It is going to be released in 70 years. To be considered confidential it would have to never ever be released. In fact the raw data should be destroyed once it is compiled.

  28. i think it is wrong that the government is being misleading about confidentiality. The information is confidential only for 72 years and then it is all made public. You might say that 72 years is a long time but if it is marketed as “confidential” many people would thing that means always. The Census Bureau should be up front and say in all its marketing that the information is confidential for 72 years.

  29. Christe says:

    Can you elaborate on exactly when Negro became a Race? The site you provided simply states:
    What is Person 1’s race?
    Asked since 1790. Race is key to implementing many federal laws and is needed to monitor compliance with the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. State governments use the data to determine congressional, state and local voting districts. Race data are also used to assess fairness of employment practices, to monitor racial disparities in characteristics such as health and education and to plan and obtain funds for public services.
    It gives no explanation as to why our government would be so ignorant that it would refer to Negro as a Race. I guess it’s true what they say – “Anyone can get a job working for the Census”.

  30. Christe says:

    So you don’t think the big notice on the outside of the envelope that says: “US Census Form Enclosed YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW” will be enough? You’re saying a friendly reminder will be more effective?

  31. Debbie says:

    Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after us! Listen.
    Pete’s right,question #1 is the only one we are compelled to answer.
    I’m a genealogist and I review Census reports constantly. Never have I seen one with such a glaring focus on the Hispanic community.
    This decade’s Census reeks of Political Gain. We had to argue when this administration decided to “oversee” the census in the first place. I disagree with the premise this is dangerous to illegal aliens. To the contrary, I think this census is a potential voter collection list. With the administration’s Amnesty Push and Hispanic’s tendency to vote Democrat, this is a present to Democrats. Yes, yes I know Federal Law protects our privacy and the use of this Census….Federal Law also assures us Politicians will uphold our Constitution and look at what’s happening in Washington DC as we speak. Just watch Democrats violate Federal Law this weekend. THEY ARE THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT!
    If only Hispanics answered the Census this Administration would be just as happy.

  32. Mike says:

    You shouldn’t be proud of this questionnaire. Question #2 is redundant. The form is only ten questions. Shouldn’t each one be important?

  33. Doris Acosta says:

    At least they (the goverment) had the common sense of giving you a space and calling : Black, African Am;or Negro, the black race, but they forgot about the LATINO (since for this sensus hispanic origins are not races!!!!! go figure) we just have to answer in the disrespetful “Some other race” space our race LATINO.
    On the other hand Asian race was divided among their different countries of origin instead of been called ASIAN.
    Please don’t be fooled by Q#8… it doesn’t help the Hispanic community at all….it just dissects us further more.
    The person(s) who wrote these questions should be fired…. But again is Washington at it’s best….

  34. Dawn says:

    ZuZu is correct. The comparative cost of mailing a postcard to the $57 it costs to send a Census worker to the address of every home that does not mail in a Census form is a huge difference.

  35. DP says:

    Oh good grief…*newsflash* the government already has your information. If you file taxes then they already know way more about you than the Census asks for.

  36. Mr. T says:

    Why this word (Negro word) used to reflect the African American/Black race?
    We have gone for years trying to get this word erased from use and for the government to use the word is wrong. Also no job, company or group would dare use this word in any Formal documentation for fear of nothing less than upsetting their clients or being sued. So again why is it used in this context. It also upsets me that it is not an option not to use this word, this makes any one of selects African American/Black accept this word when it not acceptable in any form or fashion. Whoever decide to allow this to happen should be fired. No African American/Black person would answer(verbally) to this (N word) so why is documented that we would and considered politically correct when it is know that it is not. If you want a reason why people will respond the Census you have just give them one. No other group is referenced by a derogatory name.

  37. Wanda says:

    Negro is an anropologically recognized designation it is not derogatory. They should however have said Caucasion not white to be correct.

  38. Bonnie says:

    Not to mention advertising during the Super Bowl – how much did that cost?

  39. Doug Kimzey says:

    The paragraph on the flier that begins with “Your answers are confidential” is completely meaningless and without credibility. Identity theft is pandemic. How exactly, is the US Census Bureau going to prevent the theft of data. Full name and telephone number is a good start for identity thieves. Federal law is meaningless to identity thieves and other criminals. The easiest way to get through a firewall is to have a job inside of the firewall. The probability of one or more incidents of information theft at The US Census Bureau is much, much higher than the probability that no data will be taken or abused. I would be supremely shocked if this confidential data has not already found its way into the hands of criminals and marketers.
    I have no faith, what-so-ever, in assurances by this government.

  40. Doug, The Census Law provides strong, clear protection for
    individuals’ information, and the Census Bureau must not disclose any
    data that identify an individual…i.e., no names, no addresses, and no
    information that could be used to identified someone.
    Section 9 of Title 13 is clear and unequivocal, the Census Bureau
    collects information solely for statistical purposes and it cannot
    release anything that could be used to identify an individual person
    or business.

  41. Bill says:

    his might help!
    The Constitution proscribes an ‘enumeration’ every ten years in a manner proscribed by law, but no more. Aside from telling how many persons in my household, the rest of the questions appear ‘unconstitutional’ and I shouldn’t be required to answer them.”
    A. Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 requires that the government conduct a census every ten years. This is an actual count of all the persons in the United States.
    The census was fixed at April 1, 1980, and every ten years thereafter. This decennial census is to be a head-count. A mid-decennial census, taken in 1985 and every ten years thereafter, is to be taken, and sampling methods may be used. Only the decennial census is to be used in the apportionment of Representatives. (13 USC 141)
    The questions have nothing directly to do with the Constitution. The government has the authority to ask the questions in line with its duty to conduct the census, as well as in line with its other powers. You are required, by law, to submit to the census (13 USC 221), and can be fined up to $100 for not answering any census question. Giving a willfully false answer is punishable up to $500. The law does not require you to disclose information about your religion.
    Hope this helps!

  42. a Chicago enumerator says:

    If you’ll notice, the question about Hispanic or Latino origin has only existed since 1970. If you review Census reports constantly, you would know that Census material is confidential for 72 years. You can see nothing but statistics for Censuses since 1970.

  43. Russ says:

    Your are counting heads but why do you ask for salary? How come you do not ask if we are legal citizens? I think that would be a great question.
    The is no way you can gurantee our information will remain confidential.

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