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Replacement Forms Are Coming! Another Attempt to Reduce The Costs of Visits to Households by Census Takers

Tue Mar 30 2010
Robert Groves
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One of the most consistent findings in survey research is that mailing to nonrespondent cases a second questionnaire leads to higher response rates.

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The vast majority of people who do not return a completed questionnaire after a couple of weeks have not decided to refrain from returning it. Most lead busy lives with many other obligations and have set aside the questionnaire to finish later.

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The mailing of a second questionnaire is a polite way to remind them that they have indeed failed to do something they intended to do. Fairly quick responses generally result.

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As I’ve noted in public several times, the 2010 Census must count everyone by law. If the completed form is not returned by mail, we will have to send a trained census taker out to visit the household. This costs money that we’d like to avoid spending ($57 per household instead of the $0.42 for return mailing).

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Hence, starting this week, for areas of the country that have traditionally returned the mailed form at lower rates, we will mail a replacement questionnaire. In other areas, we will not do so.

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To have a replacement form for a census requires a very large printing capacity, both for the forms and the labeling. For that reason, in some areas, we will mail a replacement form to every address, whether they returned a form or not (we printed these several weeks ago and have them ready to deliver). For other areas, we will mail a replacement form only to those from whom we have not yet received a completed form. (This set required a lot of coordination with printers and just-in-time printing of labels.)

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If you receive a replacement form and have already returned a completed form, please discard the form. If not, here’s an easy way to complete the census without having to search around the house for what happened to the first one.

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