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Apr 18

Written by: Sandra Slifer
4/18/2010 6:08 AM 

The genius of the Founders was taking a tool of government and making it a tool of political empowerment for the governed over their government.” (Census Bureau quote) 

Most St. Tammany Parish residents will receive their 2010 Census form in the mail March 15 – 17. The Census Bureau will be hand-delivering the form to residences in Orleans, St. Bernard, Plaquemines, and parts of eight other parishes impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Residents living in group quarters and jails, college dormitories, military barracks, nursing homes and shelters, and those who have been displaced by natural disasters, will be visited by Census Bureau workers for in-person counts. 

The Census is a snapshot of the United States on April 1, 2010. It is not a wish list of where you want to move next week or next year, despite the statements made by Mayor Nagin and Craig Taffaro asking former residents to return to their former residences on April 1. It is imperative that fast-growing parishes, such as St. Tammany, Ascension and Livingston receive both the funding and the representation required to sustain larger populations. 

The Census Bureau has been preparing for the 2010 Census for the past decade. Census form test runs began in 2003 and there was a dress rehearsal in 2008 in San Joaquin, CA and nine counties surrounding Fayetteville, NC. The ten-year costs for the 2010 Census are projected to be $14 billion, nearly double what it cost for the 2000 Census, and $11.4 billion more than the 1990 Census. 

Many of these costs are incurred when the Census Bureau has to hire temporary workers to visit residences and obtain Census information in person. The Census Bureau will hire 16,000 workers in Louisiana mostly for this task. 

In addition to the high cost of completing the Census, we continue losing federal money and local representation for the next ten years when there is an undercount. Louisiana Legislative Analyst Patricia Lowrety-Dufour states that communities lose  $1,300 per year or $13,000 during the ten-year Census period, for each person that is not counted. Legislative Analysts projected that St. Tammany Parish stands to gain a State House member if the population estimates are borne out in the Census. 

According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report from December 2009, approximately 84% of federal assistance grants, totaling $478.3 billion (includes Recovery Act $), were distributed based, at least partially, on the Census data. Some of these programs include Highway & Transit Grants, Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), Children’s Health Insurance (CHIP), and Education grant

In 2000, 72% of households returned their forms; the rate of return for Louisiana residents was only 65%. According to the Census Bureau, it estimates that for each percentage point of the population that does not return a form during the 2010 Census, it will cost approximately $80 – 90 million to have census workers make personal visits to obtain the missing information. Put another way, it costs between $65 and $75 when a Census worker has to visit your home to get the information. 

Go to http://2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map/ to check on the mail back participation rates.  Encourage your friends, family members, housekeepers, and gardeners to mail back their forms! 

 

Historical Perspective 

 

The Founders ordered that an official Census be completed every ten years in Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution which states, “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers… 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 ten years, in such manner as they shall direct.” Early records report that James Madison suggested five of the six initial questions residents were asked. The questions asked in the 2010 Census most closely resembles the original questions asked in 1790. 

 

Who is counted in the Census? 

 

All U.S. residents are counted regardless of citizenship status. The Constitution requires the “actual enumeration of the whole number of persons” in the United States. Even though the Censuses in 1820 and 1830 asked if a person was a foreigner and not naturalized, and later Censuses asked about place of birth, it was not used to exclude people from the count.    

 

Hard to Count Populations 

 

The population of the United States has been undercounted in every Census. This was highlighted during World War II when three percent more men registered for the draft than were counted and thirteen percent more black men registered than were counted in the 1940 Census. Minorities, the elderly, children, immigrants, inner-city residents, the impoverished, homeless people, rural residents, and those who have recently moved, are all groups that tend to be undercounted. We need to reach out to everyone and ask him or her to participate in the Census. 

 

Census Timeline 

 

March 15 – 17: Census forms received by mail

April 1: National Census Day.

April – July 2010: Census takers visit households that did not return a form by mail. Census workers are tasked with visiting each residence six times and finally speaking with neighbors to get the information.

December 2010: Census Bureau delivers population information to the President for apportionment (number of U.S House seats each state has).

February 2011: Census Bureau completes delivery of population information for redistricting (how the state is divided into districts) to the states. Louisiana will likely be one of the first states to receive information due to the statewide elections in October 2011.   

Census Questions 

There are four general household questions on the form:

  • If the housing unit is owned or rented
  • Telephone number
  • How many people live in the residence
  • If any additional people who lived at the residence on April 1, 2010 were not included 

And the following resident-specific questions are asked:

  • Name
  • Sex
  • Age and date of birth
  • Relationship to the person who owns or rents this residence
  • Whether the person is of Hispanic origin
  • Race
  • If this person sometimes lives or stays elsewhere 

There is room on the form for six people. If you have a larger family, please visit the Census Bureau web site to request a form that will accommodate larger family sizes.

This short form should not be confused with the American Community Survey that collects very detailed socioeconomic data. All of your Census data is confidential. Individual census forms are not released for 72 years. Census data is currently available from 1790 to 1930. 

It is obvious that the Census Bureau will have to find a way to count everyone in a more cost-effective method for 2020 when costs are projected to escalate to $30 billion if changes are not made. Be a part of the solution and take ten minutes to fill out your form and return it by mail between March 15 and April 15 in the prepaid envelope. 

The 2010 Census is now in our hands; make sure you mail it back promptly.

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