From a remote Alaskan village north of the Arctic Circle, U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves officially started the nation's once a decade population headcount by personally conducting the first enumeration for the 2010 Census.
Census takers must get a head start in Noorvik and other villages in remote Alaska before residents leave for hunting and fishing grounds. Residents of Anchorage, Fairbanks and other larger Alaska cities will receive 2010 Census questionnaires by mail in mid-March like the rest of the country.
“Today, we began the largest domestic undertaking in our nation's history,” said Groves as temperatures hovered around 5 below zero. “Getting an accurate count here will set the standard for the rest of the country.”
Upon arriving in Noorvik, Groves traveled by dogsled to meet with residents and leaders. He then walked to the home where the first enumeration took place.
In 2000, this Inupiat Eskimo village had a population of 634. The latest Census Bureau estimates put the population at about 660.
Alaska's vast, sparsely settled areas traditionally are the first to be counted. Local census takers must get a head start in the remote villages while the frozen ground allows access by bush plane, dogsled and snowmobile. Many residents leave following the spring thaw to fish and hunt or for other warm-weather jobs, making it difficult to get an accurate count.
Census data help influence the allocation of more than $400 billion in federal money for schools, health care and other community services. They also determine the number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and are used to redraw state and local political district lines.