Countdown to the 2010 Census

By Meghan McPherson

The Office of Energy and Planning (OEP) operates the State Data Center Program for New Hampshire. The Census Bureau created this program in 1978 and New Hampshire became a formal partner in 1982, with OEP designated as the lead agency for census programs and information. Some of the activities carried out by OEP include assisting with census data dissemination and analysis, technical assistance to data users, and operational assistance with the decennial censuses.

Everyone in the country has a very important date on April 1, 2010. It is not with a person, however. It is with a very important civic duty: the 2010 Census. While this event may seem far off in the distance for those of us with more pressing deadlines, the U.S. Census Bureau is very busy gearing up for its “biggest partnership ever." Every state will have local census offices and staff support. New Hampshire will have two office locations: the Concord office recently opened and a second office in Portsmouth that will be established by this spring/summer. The recruiting goals are massive, as the Bureau will have to generate 3.8 million applicants nationwide to hire 1.3 million temporary employees.

Why Is It So Important?

The importance of the 2010 Census cannot be overstated. Among its many uses, the Census determines the boundaries of congressional districts, the number of congressional representatives from each state, and the allocation of hundreds of billions of dollars in annual federal aid to states and localities. The Census also tells us who we are as a nation, a region, a state and a community. It shows us how we’ve changed—information all of us need as we strive to plan for the well-being of our citizens and our communities. Census data directly affect how more than $300 billion per year in federal and state funding is allocated to communities for neighborhood improvements, public health, education, transportation and much more. That’s more than $3 trillion over a 10-year period. According to the Census Bureau’s Consolidated Federal Funds Report, New Hampshire received close to 10 billion dollars in fiscal year 2007.

A Little Bit of Census 101

The Census is a count of everyone residing in the United States, Puerto Rico and the Island Areas. All residents of the United States must be counted every 10 years, with the next census occurring in 2010. Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution mandates a headcount of every person residing in the United States; the first census was conducted in 1790 and the census has been carried out every 10 years since.

Census questionnaires will be mailed or delivered to every household in the United States in March 2010. The questions ask for information that is accurate for the household as of April 1, 2010. The Census Bureau will mail a second form to households that do not respond to the initial questionnaire. Households that still do not respond will be called or visited by a census worker. According to the Census Bureau, for every 1 percent of households that mail back the census forms, the government saves $75 million in enumeration costs!

Goodbye to the Long Form

A common complaint from past decennial censuses is that the form takes too long to fill out. The good news is that the 2010 Census will be a short-form only census and will count all residents living in the United States, asking only for name, sex, age, date of birth, race, ethnicity, relationship and housing tenure of each resident. The new form will take only 10 minutes to complete and is as user-friendly as any government form can be.

The more detailed socioeconomic information from the long form is now collected through the American Community Survey (ACS). The survey provides current data about states, many counties and some communities every year, rather than once every 10 years. It is sent to a small percentage of the population on a rotating basis throughout the decade. No household will receive the survey more than once every five years. Because of the relatively small sample size, New Hampshire’s data from the ACS is currently available only for all ten counties and about a dozen communities; ACS data is available at the State Data Center website at www.nh.gov/oep/programs/DataCenter.

Local Partnerships

It’s really in the best interest of our communities that we do all we can to ensure that everyone is counted for the 2010 Census. With so many federal and state dollars at stake, an accurate count ensures that a community receives its fair share of important services and resources. There are many opportunities for local organizations and governments to participate in this effort. Many municipalities have already participated in some 2010 Census activities, such as reviewing and commenting on the list of housing unit and group-quarters addresses through the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) program. We can still use your help in many other ways, too. Local government organizations can create a Complete Count Committee for the town, as well as sponsor a town hall meeting to get information out about the 2010 Census. The Office of Energy and Planning’s State Data Center can help communities with these activities by providing access to the many available resources through the Census Bureau.

Educational organizations can also participate by including information about the 2010 Census in their send-home newsletters or at parent-teacher conferences. Additionally, educators can use the Census in the schools’ lessons for the students; educational material is available through the Bureau’s website at www.census.gov/dmd/www/teachers.html.

Finally, community and social organizations can join as partners, and include information about the Census in their newsletters, on bulletin boards and on their websites. Organizations can also work to answer questions and help to educate citizens on what the 2010 Census is, as well as clear up any misconceptions.

The 2010 Census is such a valuable resource for so many important aspects of our lives, and affects not only our political representation, but directs the allocation of billions of dollars in government funding. Your community’s participation in the 2010 Census is invaluable. We invite you to plan ahead with us now for that important date—April 1, 2010. Let’s make it our mission for the 2010 Census to “Count everyone once—and only once—and in the right place!"

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