The 2010 Census doesn’t start until March, but preparations are already underway.
The U.S. Census counts every resident in the United States, and is required by the Constitution to take place every 10 years. In fact, the census is not conducted for the convenience of genealogists, although some of us may need to be reminded of that fact. Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution of the United States requires a periodic census in order to determine the apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives and for no other reason:
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 10 years, in such manner as they shall by Law direct.
Many other uses for census records have appeared since the Constitution was ratified in 1789, including determining how to distribute more than $400 billion in federal funds each year for things like:
- Job training centers
- Senior centers
- Bridges, tunnels and other-public works projects
- Emergency services
In March of 2010, census forms will be delivered to every residence in the United States and Puerto Rico. The majority of the country will receive English–only materials. Households in areas with high concentrations of Spanish-speaking residents may receive a bilingual (English/Spanish) form.
Any personal data you provide is protected under federal law.
The 2010 Census will be shorter than past years, just 10 questions long, including:
- Age and date of birth
- Hispanic origin
- Household relationship
- If you own or rent your home
The 2010 Census form requires less personal information than a typical credit card application. For example, the 2010 Census does NOT ask about bank account information, salary or income, citizenship or immigration status, and also does not ask you for your Social Security number.
The form must be returned by April 1. If you don't mail the form back, you may receive a visit from a census taker, who will ask you the questions from the form.
Census data will not be released to any businesses or even to other governmental agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service or any other agency. By law, the data provided by the census is not allowed to be released to the IRS or to any government entity. Census data is not released until 72 years after it is taken, at which time genealogists will gain access to the data.
Census data are also used for regional planning, economic information and the allocation of federal tax dollars. Such information is released within months or a few years as it contains no personal information about citizens.
The goal for the 2010 Census is more than an 80 percent response rate.
You can view the 2010 U.S. Census form at http://2010.census.gov/2010census/how/interactive-form.php.
You can learn more at http://www.census.gov.