Almost every mailbox in the United States is going to receive a form from the 2010 Census this week. The U.S. Constitution requires a census of the country every 10 years – and those numbers help determine everything from congressional representation to educational funding. Filling out the form takes 10 minutes – less than a personal loan application – and is incredibly important. So what are the census required answers? Is your information safe? And what happens with the data?
Census required answers – what to tell the Census Bureau
Because the 2010 Census will help determine the allocation of hundreds of billions of government dollars, it is incredibly important that the count be accurate. According the the United States Code, refusing to participate in the census means a fine of $100, while deliberately giving false answers can mean a fine of $500.
This year’s 2010 Census form is only 10 questions – and is one of the shortest forms on record. It asks about the number of people that live in the household, their ages, their ethnicity and whether they stay somewhere else. There is also a question about what type of home it is – a mobile home, apartment, condo, house, etc. So what are the 2010 Census required answers? All of them. An answer to every question is required by the Census Bureau.
What happens if I don’t mail back my 2010 Census Form?
If a household does not mail the form back, the U.S. Census Bureau will send an enumerator to the house – and send them back as many as two dozen times – until they talk to someone. If th enumerators are not able to talk to anyone at the house, they will talk to neighbors in an effort to get an accurate count of people. The Census enumerators are not immigration officials, police officers, members of the military or even representatives of anything other than the U.S. Census. They don’t care about anything except the number of people that live somewhere.
Is my 2010 Census information safe?
It can seem very scary, giving personal information to a government representative. However, the U.S. Census exists in a very unique “walled garden” of government protections. As the Washington Post reports, not even the U.S. Patriot Act, which overrides dozens of security protections in other parts of the government, can penetrate Census information.
Private information about individuals is never published by the Census Bureau, and it publishes statistics only. U.S. Census workers are subject to a quarter-million dollar fine and five years in prison if they so much as share an address. That is the kind of fine that most U.S. Census workers could not even pay with the help of quick payday loans. Census workers are not allowed to discuss even the area of a city they are working in, much less any private information. Not even immigration enforcement can make use of the data. Illegal residents are specifically protected in the Census and have been since 1790.
What happens to my 2010 Census Answers?
Once you’ve filled out the 2010 Census forms or talked to a Census enumerator, your data is used in a dizzying array of places. Not only is the data used to determine congressional representation, it is also used to help allocate funding for roads, education, stimulus packages and more.
Census data is also used by financial institutions and businesses to determine expansion and business improvement plans. Everything from the population signs when you enter a city down to the new sidewalks in your favorite business district are determined by the Census. Depending on your locality, a single person providing the Census required answers can help allocate anywhere from $1,400 (in Wichita Falls) to $4,656 (in Washington, D.C.) for the city.