Some Reasons You’re Not Yet Receiving Your Census Form

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Written by: Director Robert Groves

We’re receiving calls on the 866-872-6868 toll-free line from folks who haven’t received a 2010 census form yet. There are various reasons that can explain why this occurred. Each of them explain small numbers of cases; if this affects you, you can read these below to see how we’re following up on such cases.

You live in an Update/Enumerate area. For about 1.5 million addresses in remote areas, many American Indian reservations, Texas Colonias, and areas with high concentrations of seasonally vacant housing units, we send census workers to these areas to collect the information in person. This operation only began on March 22, and will continue through the end of May.

Your form is undeliverable. Some of the forms we provide to the United States Postal Service for delivery are returned by them as undeliverable. As of April 3, we had received 12.9 million of these from USPS. Many of these are for vacant housing units, but some will be situations where we had an address error in our file, or the address we have is not actually used for mail delivery. We will visit each undeliverable address during our nonresponse follow-up operation (May 1 – July 10) to collect census information in person or to determine the unit is vacant or non-residential.

You live in an area of new construction. In the spring of 2009, we hired approximately 150,000 people to canvass the ground and update our nationwide master address file. Since the completion of that operation, new homes have been built. We obtained information about such addresses from both the USPS and local governments, but most of these addresses were added to our file too late to include them in the initial mailout or hand delivery of questionnaires. Addresses sent to us by USPS will receive a form during a late mailout that is happening now. Address information sent to us by local governments will be visited during a later operation to make sure we count them and any occupants.

Your addresses had a late code addition for its geographical location. For some of the addresses in our file, we were unable to assign them to a specific geographic block by the time we needed to begin printing and labeling questionnaires. We have since been able to complete this work for many of these cases (about 500,000 addresses) and began mailing questionnaires this week.

Your address is included in the “update review” process. As part of our address list development efforts, local, tribal, and state governments had an opportunity to review our address file and tell us about missing or mis-geocoded addresses. Some addresses have been the focus of an appeals process, and will be included in a late questionnaire mailing going on in the first weeks of April or visited during a later operation.

You have a post office box in a mailout/mailback area. We don’t send census forms to P.O. boxes. The census is all about counting people where they live and sleep, so we must tie each form to a physical location. P.O. boxes are not tied to specific housing units, so we can’t use them to send the forms to specific housing units. One of our census workers will visit houses that rely on P.O. boxes between May 1 and July 10.

Your address is incomplete in our file. We have some address listings on our file that are incomplete, and to which we cannot mail a form: an address with only a street name, or with only a location description. In most cases, we assigned these addresses to a specific location (either with GPS coordinates or a map spot) during the Address Canvassing operation in the Summer of 2009, so we will be able to visit them during the nonresponse follow-up operation (May 1 – July 10).

Your form was misdelivered. It is possible that some of the forms were delivered to the wrong address by either the post office or census workers conducting hand delivery. If these addresses are in an area with historically low mail response rates, they will be included in the blanket replacement mailing that took place the first week of April. If they don’t receive a form at all, we still have the address and location on file, and we’ll visit during our nonresponse follow-up operation to collect census information in person (May 1 – July 10).

You live in “group quarters.” Many people live in what we term “group quarters” — college dormitories, military barracks, prisons and jails, most nursing homes, juvenile institutions, and other similar facilities. We do not mail questionnaires to residents of group quarters. Instead, residents are counted during a separate operation where census workers visit the location to distribute and then collect completed forms. There are about 270,000 group quarters facilities to be enumerated in the 2010 Census (between April 1 and May 21).

Your housing unit is miscoded as group quarters. Although most group quarters are fairly easy to identify, we sometimes mis-classify multi-unit buildings as group quarters when they really should have been coded as housing units. Because these units are in the group quarters inventory, they won’t have a form delivered in the mail. However, they will be enumerated during the group quarters operation – April 1 through May 21.

We missed your address in our canvassing operation. There may be some units that we completely missed in our canvassing in summer of 2009. If that is the case, we may not be planning any follow-up activity. In this case, we ask that you wait until April 12 and then obtain a “be counted” form from a Be Counted site in your area or call 866-872-6868 for assistance.

Indeed, if you don’t yet have a form, you may not know for sure which of the groups above you may fit into. If you believe you won’t be counted, then beginning on April 12 you can call 1‐866‐872‐6868 and we will either take your information over the phone or send you a form by mail [UPDATE: Forms no longer available]. If you prefer, you can also obtain a form from a Be Counted or Questionnaire Assistance Center site from now through April 19. Locations of these sites can be found on our Web site.

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40 Responses to Some Reasons You’re Not Yet Receiving Your Census Form

  1. mberry says:

    Is it true that the Census Bureau plans to count same-sex couples who say they are married regardless of whether they have a marriage license? There are only 5 states where it is legal for homosexuals to marry. If this is so, you are violating the Federal Defense of Marriage Act. This would be a lie and an inaccurate census.

  2. mberry, Society and law are changing with respect to same-sex couples. The Census Bureau is working to adapt to this change, and to provide accurate measures of same-sex couples and the same-sex married population. Our portrayal of household relationship must accurately represent existing circumstances brought about by societal, cultural, and in some cases, legal changes. The General Counsel of the Department of Commerce recently reached a legal conclusion that reversed a policy of the previous Administration and clarified how the Census Bureau can report the growing number of samesex marriages in the United States. The Census Bureau will release the raw relationship data from the 2010 Census that will not recode same-sex marriages as unmarried partners. The form for 2010 Census is just 10 questions, and while it asks about the
    relationships between respondents in a household, it was not designed to count the number of marriages in the country.

  3. Roy says:

    mberry, the Census is not interested in politics. It is interested in counting people. In 2000 and this year much of the information is “Self Described” it has no weight of law. If I, a man, were to say on the Census that I were a woman, it does not change my sex or my legal status. The only real effect would be to really confuse my progeny when in 80 or so years they look me up on the census.
    People need to give honest answers but it has little to do with anything political or of legal status. The Census is confidential and no one but the processors of the data would have any way of knowing or caring if two people of the same sex were or were not married.
    Listen to less sensationalist radio and TV. The Census is our friend.

  4. Mary says:

    I called the 800 number and got a voice recording…..
    Could not leave a message about not having a form to fill out.
    Can’t fill it out on line, no person to contact…..

  5. The Census Bureau is still in the process of sending out Census 2010 questionnaires. If you have not received a questionnaire by April 12th, please contact the Telephone Questionnaire Assistance Center at 1-866-872-6868, but please note until April 12th, it is automated message. If you call after April 12th, someone will be able to help you.
    Also you can pick up a form at one of our Be Counted sites. Be counted sites are not private homes, but libraries, churches, town halls, local business etc. Be Counted forms are available for anyone who did not receive a 2010 Census form or believes that they were missed on their household’s form.

  6. Chris Birke says:

    Why does the census track Race and not Culture? For what purpose?
    Why are all white people white, while you make detailed distinctions between Asiatic peoples?
    I find these questions to be deeply troubling. It is scientifically ignorant and backwards.
    Is the census such a slow moving bureaucracy that it’s just 30 years behind the times in terms of understanding race and culture? Perhaps it is a political tool for creating a fear that “Hispanics” are overrunning the pure white race.
    I would wager solid money that a census like this won’t exist in the future; not once more people are informed as to the realities of the world. This race based approach was fuel for untold evils, from slavery to the holocaust. It is not something to perpetuate. If you want to track population growth, ask people’s origins. If you want to track cultural flux, ask which culture people self identify with. By tracking “Race” you only continue an ignorant mistake as old as the species. As educated people at the helm of the census, I hope you too are deeply troubled by the situation.
    As an American of German heritage (who’s grandfather was a German soldier,) I am ashamed the lesson has not been learned.

  7. Alison says:

    I am getting a little sick and tired of all the politically correctness on government forms. We used to use the term Indian, then it was Native American, now it is American Indian. We used to use the term Negro, then Black, now African American(they weren’t all born in Africa). So why the heck is there just the term White. My ancestors came from Germany, so I guess I am German American then.

  8. Aage says:

    I filled out the 2010 census form and mailed it in. How can I check on you’re web site to make sure you got it and I’m counted.

  9. FedUp says:

    The Census just wants to know how many people are IN the household, they could care less about the sleeping arrangements. Who are YOU to question what someone else’s personal business is? Maybe the Census should inquire into your personal business…such as hate crimes against homosexuals. Oh wait, the Census doesn’t do that, THEY JUST COUNT PEOPLE.

  10. Fedup2 says:

    Just another excuse for the government to spend taxpayers money instead of giving it back to the people. STOP OVER SPENDING.

  11. DLS says:

    First, reporting race–as opposed to culture (I don’t know how you’d get any meaningful estimate from “culture”)–is required by the Voting Rights Act to prevent redistricting efforts based on race.
    Second, “scientifically” speaking, race doesn’t really exist in concrete terms. Most African Americans have some European ancestors. Most of us are multiracial, even if we don’t know it. But race doesn’t stop being a real cultural thing.
    The Census Bureau spends an enormous amount of time and resources figuring out what race is, why it’s important, and how to ask it. But there’s no right way to ask it, and people get pissed off no matter what question is on the form. Race in America is a pretty sensitive issue, obviously, and people feel very strongly about it.
    Even if we try to ignore it (heck, *especially* if we try to ignore it), race doesn’t go away.

  12. MTS says:

    I finally received my form ON April 1st. I’m thinking the post office was a little lax?

  13. JR says:

    I agree with you… it the same for hispanics??? We have to answer twice about our heritage? Hispanic Y/N and from where ? and then we have to answer if we are white, black, asian, …… It makes no sense

  14. Jeff says:

    Why do you care if somebody wants to look you up when your dead and gone!

  15. blf says:

    I never received the census form and got the run around when I called. Computers down! I never got before or after letters but my neighbor did and also received the form. Their house has been in existance for fewer years than ours and they have lived there two years less time. Why did they that address get it but not our address?

  16. Jen says:

    I use a PO Box, so I did not get a form in the mail. When the census people come to my door, will they leave the form if I’m not home? If I am home, can I ask them to just give me a form to mail back on my own? I think I’d rather not give my answers directly to whoever shows up at my door.

  17. DLS says:

    First–The Census is required by the constitution. It’s not someone’s pet project. It’s an enormous undertaking that requires lots of money. Especially when you have whackjobs spreading lies about the Census.
    Second–one of the many benefits of having a Census is that the government can more efficiently use taxpayer dollars.

  18. Robin L White says:

    My landlady is out of town, so I cannot speak to her about it, but before she went away, she stated she was not going to fill out the census report as it was some kind of governmental conspiracy to get information about people and use it against them.
    I tried to explain to her it had to do with how much money communities received from the Federal Govt. but she would have none of it.
    Is there a way that I can get a form to fill out? There are up to 12 people living here at one time. None of us has received a form or been included in the Census, can you direct me to a source for completion?

  19. WisconsinCensusHelper says:

    DLS, I appreciate your replies. I’m working as a QAC Rep. (face-to-face census help) and appreciate the blog’s thorough explanations of the most common questions I hear.
    You and Paul could do an even better job of routing readers to positive, democratic, pro-social-justice reasons for asking about race, gender, income, etc. The census2010 website has a page of examples of citizen activists who used U.S. Census data as evidence that, e.g., a trash-burning power plant proposed for South Minneapolis would have the greatest effect on a neighborhood with a high % of people who are children, elderly, earn a low income, and ethnic minorities.

  20. mary fletcher says:

    Thousands of us in our sort of rural area use PO boxes, and when we didnt get our forms, we asked what the problem was. The post office people said that they had to SEND THEM BACK! even tho they were addressed to us correctly.
    What is the point of this? Its going to cost a heck of a lot more money to send people to our houses!
    I think this is pretty stupid.
    Just think of how many people in USA who use Post Office boxes!
    And how many people who dont have rural delivery for many reasons.
    Please someone explain this stupidity to us!

  21. Sue F says:

    We live full-time in a motorhome. We park it in the winter months at a motorcoach resort in Florida, which we regard as our home base. We have not received a census form there. No-one is there during the summer months apart from office staff, as by law it is a 6-month resort. We would like to be counted, so I have asked for a form to be sent to us. However I had heard that forms may not be forwarded in the mail. Is this correct?

  22. Mary Fletcher says:

    I called the census people again and asked for a supervisor, he did not know that the census bureau had requested that the USPS send all the forms back that were addressed to PO boxes!
    It says that right on their website that no po box people will recieve forms!
    And says right there that each and every person with a post office box will have to be visited by a census worker. Why? Not one of them who I talked to could answer any of that.
    How expensive is that compared with filling them out and mailing?
    He denied that, said that the post office clerk was wrong when she said that they had to be returned.
    Wow, this is getting pathetic.
    So I called the USPS and they had not a clue!
    None of them knew if it was legitamite for us to download a form, fill it out, and mail it in.
    Total lack of communication between these 2 government agencies! Total lack of knowledge from customer service reps, and their supervisors. Why are they so incompetent and inept,,,, anybody running a company like this would be labeled incapable and useless right away.
    And the govt is going to run health care? Oh, give me a break!
    I give up, I will just mail the thing in. Im done ranting, its so frustrating.
    We have no more time for wading around in this census bungle.

  23. Denise says:

    Why isn’t the census form available to be downloaded from the website?

  24. Still Waiting says:

    I started calling the 1-866 number 2 weeks ago to report that we had not yet received a questionnaire, but I got a recording telling me I had to wait and call back after April 12. So I emailed the Census Bureau because I had questions about the in-person visit I feared we might end up getting. I received a template email reply that was exactly the same thing I had already read on the website; and the reply did not answer my question at all. I called the 1-866 number again on April 14 but was unable to talk to a real human being–I only got an automated answering system. It did allow me to request that a form be sent to us. It hasn’t come yet, so we’ll see. If our situation is any indication, there are going to be lots of people who won’t get counted. Our tax dollars at work?

  25. Denise, there are several reasons that there is not an option for filling out the census online. We researched providing the Internet as an option for responding during the decade and the research showed that it would not save money, raise response rates or provide adequate assurances of data security for this census.

  26. CivicsTeacher says:

    The Census Bureau gave the contract for their field operations “mail” to FedEx instead of the US Postal Service. Maybe, just speculating, that could be why you can’t find a Be Counted box full of census forms right there at the P.O. where P.O. box holders pick up their mail.

  27. lia says:

    I’m living in my car, I work and pay my taxes but I don’t have resident status. I don’t want to be unresponsible, if you tell me to go over one of the offices to fill up the form I do it.
    In general how do you do with homeless people? Cause now there is more people living on the streets, in old rvs the lucky ones, cars, and filling up the shelters.. Thanks for your time

  28. JK says:

    I’m a PO Box so didn’t get a form. I just called the toll free number and answered all the questions by phone. Fast and painless. Thank you for this option and for counting everyone!

  29. Lia, To ensure that you are counted in the 2010 Census please call 1-866-872-6868. If people are staying in a shelter, transient location, or even on the street, we have existing procedures in place to count people without conventional housing.

  30. Ken Dupuy says:

    No one was able to help me after April 12th. It was still fully automated. I can’t even find it any more. I just rechecked Be Counted. It used to tell be I could go to Dallas, but that’s apparently not an option now. How come I get a letter claiming I’m getting a form (didn’t happen), & then a postcard telling me (also a lie) that a Census worker delivered a form to my address? No form, though. Whoever this “census worker” is ought to be fired. It’s a definite dereliction of duty. They were hired specifically to conduct a census, & blatantly ignored their responsibility. There seems to be lot of emphasis on “why” the census form should be filled out, but how can I fill out a form that doesn’t exist? I had to make my own form. I guess it’ll be good enough; it’ll have to be. It’s all I have. I had one of those D-26 forms by the mailbox saying that someone was here & would be back in a day or two. That was three weeks ago, & there hasn’t been a trace or anyone since then. I don’t remember it being this complicated in 2000.

  31. Ken Dupuy says:

    Since I was born in America, that makes me Native American, right? Too bad they WON’T SEND ME A CENSUS FORM! I can’t select ANYTHING without a census form! Where is everybody else getting these census forms? They mailed me 2 of them in 2000. Did one of those count for 2010? I made my own anyhow, just in case.

  32. Ken Dupuy says:

    Mine still hasn’t arrived. What gives?

  33. Ken Dupuy says:

    Maybe they forgot your address. I got the letter & postcard, but not the form. I would’ve thought they’d use the same address for all 3, but I guess they think differently.

  34. Ken Dupuy says:

    It never gave me the option to request a form! How did you do it?

  35. Ken Dupuy says:

    What about those of us with conventional housing?

  36. Ken Dupuy says:

    How did you do that? I couldn’t find it. When I tried, all it wanted was a number from a form I’ve never seen, or else it said to wait until I get that same form I’ve never seen. Lately, it outright refuses to send the form (at least it gives me a straight answer now) or offer any assistance. Are there any people in the Department of Commerce? I couldn’t find any.

  37. Tom says:

    I get my absentee ballot here, for several years. Why coudln’t get a census form??

  38. SBrothers says:

    Received no Census form in mail – Census workers never came by my residence even though I saw them in the neiborhood – neighbors was personally contacted – guess I wasn’t important enough to count.

  39. Mary says:

    I guess that discounts that 72 million people who e-filed their taxes last year. Because people are willing to utilize an electronic filing measure.
    Those printing companies must have some good lobbyists.

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