The Success of the 2010 Census Depends on the Involvement of Everyone
Once a decade, America conducts a remarkable exercise in democracy â€“ the census. This massive undertaking is really about individuals, groups and communities across the nation getting their voices heard, not with a vote, but simply by their presence. This new picture of our nation has been taken every 10 years since 1790. It is the basis for our representation in Congress and how more than $400 billion in federal funds are returned to state and local areas every year.
These are critical funds that your state and local governments need to plan new roads, new schools, new emergency services and to develop new economic opportunities for all people in the area.
Census responses also serve many other important purposes. Age, race and Hispanic data are required to ensure compliance with the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. The data also support numerous federal programs. For example, census data are used to evaluate whether financial institutions are meeting the credit needs of minority populations under the Community Reinvestment Act.
At 45 million strong and growing, the Latino population can take pride as the largest and fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S. The 2010 Census is your opportunity to get your voice heard and to make sure that the dramatic growth in the Latino population is accurately reflected in the census.
Itâ€™s critical that every household fills in and mails back their census form. If households do not return the form, census workers will have to go door-to-door to collect the data, and this is expensive. We can save nearly $85 million in taxpayer money for every 1 percent increase in mail response. We reached 65 percent in 2000. I hope to surpass that in 2010, but can do so only with your help.
To make it easier to participate, the 2010 Census is the first to have a bilingual Spanish/English form. This special form will be mailed to about 13 million households in neighborhoods identified as needing high levels of Spanish assistance. Households in other areas can request a Spanish version of the form by calling a telephone hotline, view a Spanish language version on the 2010 Census Web site, or get in-language help with the form at one of thousands of questionnaire assistance centers throughout the country.
At the Census Bureau, we can fully appreciate that language barriers are not the only obstacles standing in the way of a complete and accurate count of the population. There is certainly fear and mistrust in the population, but I can assure you that any information you provide to the Census Bureau cannot and will not be shared with anyone â€“ not with law enforcement, immigration, or any other agency. The Constitution decreed that the census include all people living within the United States â€“ citizens and noncitizens alike. The 14th Amendment reinforced this stance. Title 13 of the U.S. Code protects the confidentiality of the information you provide.
All U.S. Census Bureau employees take an oath of nondisclosure and are sworn for life to protect the confidentiality of census data. The penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment of up to five years or both.
In March 2010, approximately 120 million forms will be mailed out and nearly 13.5 million will be hand-delivered. Once you get your census form, fill it out and mail it back. Responses on the census should include everyone living at your address, even temporarily.
Filling out the census is easy â€” it should only take you about 10 minutes to fill out the name, gender, age, race and Hispanic origin of those living in the household, and whether you rent or own your home.
I urge everyone in America to help make this a good census. I know the Hispanic population will be a large part of this effort.
More information about the 2010 Census is available at www.2010census.gov
. If you have questions about the questionnaire, call the Telephone Questionnaire Center at 1-866-872-6868 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week from Feb. 25 through July 30. If you prefer a Spanish-speaking operator, dial 1-866-928-2010.
By U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves