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Communities nationwide are urging their residents to take 10 minutes on Thursday, April 1 — Census Day — to fill out and mail back their 2010 Census forms if they haven't already done so. As the official reference date for the once-a-decade civic ceremony, Census Day will serve as the point-in-time benchmark for the nation's population count for the next 10 years.
The U.S. Census Bureau mailed or hand-delivered about 134 million 2010 Census questionnaires to households in March. To date, just over half of those households have mailed back their census forms, an important milestone. South Dakota and North Dakota have achieved some of the highest rates of mail return so far (62 percent and 61 percent, respectively), followed by Nebraska (60 percent).
Residents still have time to fill out and mail back their 10-question census form, saving the government about $57 for each household that does not have to be visited by an enumerator. The U.S. Constitution requires an enumeration of every person living in the U.S. Every household that fails to send back its census form by mail must be visited by a census taker starting in May — at significant taxpayer cost. The easiest and best way to be counted in the census is to fill out and return your form by mail. If every household across the nation mailed back its completed form, taxpayers could reduce the cost of administering the census by about $1.5 billion.
“I'd like nothing more than to return money to the taxpayers following this census because they mailed back the census forms at a record rate,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves. “In the end, the American public's willingness to participate in the 2010 Census will determine its success and how much money we're able to save.”
Highlights of the Census Bureau's April 1 initiatives to raise awareness and encourage participation in the 2010 Census include:
A complete list of Census Day events can be found at http://2010.census.gov/news/pdf/National_Census_Day_Events.pdf [PDF 70k]. To track national and local participation rates, the Census Bureau's “Take 10” Rate Tracker widget is available for download at http://2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map. Anyone with a Web site can copy and paste a widget that will display and automatically update their community's mail participation rates on a daily basis. A new interactive Google Earth application also shows mail participation rates for 2010 — updated daily — a user-friendly platform for broadcast news stations that want to zoom in on their area's rates. (See: http://maplify.com/blog/ and http://maplify.com/census/ ).
Census data is used to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and to distribute more than $400 billion in federal funds annually. In 2000, the nation reversed a three-decade decline in mail rates, achieving a participation rate of 72 percent.
All census responses are confidential. Answers are protected by law and cannot be shared with anyone. The Census Bureau takes extreme measures to protect the identity of individuals and businesses. By law, the Census Bureau cannot share respondents' individually identifiable answers with anyone, including tribal housing authorities, other federal agencies and law enforcement entities.
The 2010 Census is a count of everyone living in the United States and is mandated by the U.S. Constitution. Census data are used to apportion congressional seats to states, to distribute more than $400 billion in federal funds to tribal, state and local governments each year and to make decisions about what community services to provide. The 2010 Census form is one of the shortest in U.S. history, consisting of 10 questions, taking about 10 minutes to complete. Strict confidentiality laws protect the respondents and the information they provide.