Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The 2010 Census Questions - and why they are asked

We got our letter in the mail yesterday from the U.S. Department of Commerce telling us that the 2010 Census was going to arrive in my mailbox in about one week, and to fill it out and mail it in promptly.

You can see the questions and the boxes to be checked for each question at http://2010.census.gov/2010census/how/interactive-form.php.

I was curious about the questions to be asked, and the reasons for asking them. The 2010 Census website offers the list of questions and reasons:

1) How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment, or mobile home on April 1, 2010?

We ask this question to help get an accurate count of the number of people in the household on Census Day, April 1, 2010. The answer should be based on the guidelines in the 'Start here' section. We use the information to ensure response accuracy and completeness and to contact respondents whose forms have incomplete or missing information.

2) Were there any additional people staying here April 1, 2010 that you did not include in Question 1?

Asked since 1880. We ask this question to help identify people who may have been excluded in the count provided in Question 1. We use the information to ensure response accuracy and completeness and to contact respondents whose forms have incomplete or missing information.

3) Is this house, apartment, or mobile home: owned with mortgage, owned without mortgage, rented, occupied without rent?

Asked since 1890. Homeownership rates serve as an indicator of the nation's economy. The data are also used to administer housing programs and to inform planning decisions.

4) What is your telephone number?

We ask for a phone number in case we need to contact a respondent when a form is returned with incomplete or missing information.

5) Please provide information for each person living here. Start with a person here who owns or rents this house, apartment, or mobile home. If the owner or renter lives somewhere else, start with any adult living here. This will be Person 1. What is Person 1's name?

Listing the name of each person in the household helps the respondent to include all members, particularly in large households where a respondent may forget who was counted and who was not. Also, names are needed if additional information about an individual must be obtained to complete the census form. Federal law protects the confidentiality of personal information, including names.

6) What is Person 1's sex?

Asked since 1790. Census data about sex are important because many federal programs must differentiate between males and females for funding, implementing and evaluating their programs. For instance, laws promoting equal employment opportunity for women require census data on sex. Also, sociologists, economists, and other researchers who analyze social and economic trends use the data.

7) What is Person 1's age and Date of Birth?

Asked since 1800. Federal, state, and local governments need data about age to interpret most social and economic characteristics, such as forecasting the number of people eligible for Social Security or Medicare benefits. The data are widely used in planning and evaluating government programs and policies that provide funds or services for children, working-age adults, women of childbearing age, or the older population.

8) Is Person 1 of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin?

Asked since 1970. The data collected in this question are needed by federal agencies to monitor compliance with anti-discrimination provisions, such as under the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. State and local governments may use the data to help plan and administer bilingual programs for people of Hispanic origin.

9) What is Person 1's race?

Asked since 1790. Race is key to implementing many federal laws and is needed to monitor compliance with the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. State governments use the data to determine congressional, state and local voting districts. Race data are also used to assess fairness of employment practices, to monitor racial disparities in characteristics such as health and education and to plan and obtain funds for public services.

10) Does Person 1 sometimes live or stay somewhere else?

This is another question we ask in order to ensure response accuracy and completeness and to contact respondents whose forms have incomplete or missing information.

Questions 5 through 10 are asked for each person in the household. There is a mention on the Census 2010 website that a "household relationship" entry can be made for all of the persons in the household besides for the head of household, but the form shown online does not display the rest of the pages.

Unfortunately for late 21st and 22nd century genealogists, there are no questions about relationships of people living in the household, marital status, birth place, or citizenship status. Too bad. You would think that the government would like to know about these issues.

UPDATED 4:30 p.m. Amanda commented that the "household relationship" is asked for persons 2 through N on the pages we cannot see online. I recall now that such was the case. I modified my text above to reflect that. Thank you, Amanda!

2 comments:

Amanda (the librarian) said...

RE: Unfortunately for late 21st and 22nd century genealogists, there are no questions about relationships of people living in the household, marital status, birth place, or citizenship status.

Randy, the web page for the census about the 10 question is not very clear. Somewhere else on their website, it indicates that questions 5-10 are asked for each additional person (Person #2 through whatever), AND there is an additional question for each of those persons about their relationship to person #1. It's really buried in their website.

There's such a push to make sure illegal aliens fill out the census that I am not the least bit surprised they aren't asking questions about place of birth or citizenship.

Liz said...

LOL, I was all excited about filling mine out, until I saw how short it will be! Guess I'm remembering the long form I had fun with in 2000.