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As elected officials and community leaders across the nation take part in "Census Day" activities to increase local participation in the 2010 Census, the U.S. Census Bureau today announced that 54 percent of the nation's estimated 134 million households have mailed back their census forms.
While April 1 is officially designated as Census Day, the Census Bureau will continue to accept 2010 Census questionnaires by mail through mid-April. Beginning May 1, census workers will begin going door to door to households that failed to mail back their forms — a massive operation that costs taxpayers an average of $57 per household versus the 42 cents it takes to get a response back by mail.
“The Census Bureau and I would like to thank everyone who has already taken 10 minutes to fill out and mail back the 2010 Census,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said. “For those who have not yet had a chance to send it back, I'd like to reiterate that it's not too late to participate and doing so will save a lot of taxpayer money.”
Census Day serves as the point-in-time benchmark for the nation's population count for the next 10 years. April 1 has been designated by law as Census Day since 1930. Before that, the decennial population count's reference date fell on different days, such as Aug. 7 in 1820, June 1 in 1880, and April 15 in 1910.
Severe weather conditions during the 1920 Census, which had a Census Day of Jan. 2, led to the April 1 date when weather would be temperate enough to allow census takers to travel within their assignment areas.
The Census Bureau is urging communities nationwide to take charge of their 2010 Census mail participation rates. Anyone can visit the 2010 Census Web site to see how well their state, county or neighborhood is participating in the census. From the same interactive rate map, anyone can also embed a Participation Rate Tracker “widget” on their Web site that will display an area's latest participation rates.
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.