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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

US 2010 Census: Who needs it?

By Dan Jones

The US Census

The US Census

If you haven't already, you should soon be seeing a envelope direct from the US government sitting in your mail box. Don't worry, you haven't done anything wrong it's just the government's once-a-decade population count.

120 million US Census forms are scheduled to arrive in US households today as the government do a head count in order to help divvy up congressional seats and more than $400 billion in federal aid. But government officials, along with private-sector leaders, are keen to point out that the data will be used not only on a federal level, but locally as well. Shorter than previous Censuses, this decade's questionnaire will only include ten questions in an effort to boost lower-than-average mail participation ten years ago.

Fair political representation

The Census is a decennial census mandated by the United States Constitution, with the first performed after the America revolution in 1790. Nowadays the Census determines how $400 billion in federal funding is spent each year. Hospitals, schools and roads are examples of infrastructure funding that the Census determines. It helps to know how many new roads need to built, and where they are going to be.

The US Census

One other primary goal is to divide the 435 seats in the House of Representatives among the states. Because population changes so much as time passes, a census helps to keep things in order and determine if the nation is fairly represented politically. Your state's population in the 2010 Census will determine if it gains, loses or keeps House seats.

Even though it helps to know if you have a larger, stronger House delegation, there is more to it than the simple possibility of losing or gaining a member of Congress.

Growing US apathy toward surveys

The Census is very important to the business world and can have long-lasting implications for how successful a business is. Knowing the demographics of an area helps to determine advertising and marketing strategies, whilst non-profit organisations use the age and income data to examine the specific needs of each community.

The biggest potential obstacle to the Census being successful is the American people. Low mail participation means inaccurate data, which means policies will be affected on both a local and federal level. However, those who forget or just refuse to take part surrender the right complain about policy decisions based on the data.

A fine of $5000 is applicable for those who fail to respond, but that law is very rarely enforced

The AP shrewdly reports that even as it aims high, the Census Bureau predicts that maybe two-thirds of US households will mail in the form. That's because it faces special challenges of growing US apathy toward surveys, residents displaced by a high number of foreclosures, as well as immigrants who have become more distrustful of government workers amid a crackdown on illegal immigration.

On top of all this the logistics of carrying out a survey on this scale are sizeable to say the least, and a hell of a lot of work (and money) goes into making it happen. So, if for nothing else, reply as a means of making all this hard work worth while...