Next year, 2010, will be the decennial census of the United States. Every ten years, since 1790, the government has counted the population of this nation – as required by the Constitution. In order to do this successfully, the Census Bureau has already begun laying the groundwork for the count. Over the next few weeks you might see people walking around neighborhoods, going door-to-door, and working with little hand-held computers. These are Address Canvassers, and their job is to make sure every possible living space is identified – this includes houses, condos, apartments, group homes, campsites, etc. This way census forms can be sent out next year to everyone, and the Bureau will be able to follow up on any that are not returned.
Why is the Census so important? First, it is the way the federal government decides how many representatives each state gets; in addition, state and local governments use the data to draw various representative boundaries. Many other organizations use the data as well to do their jobs. Also, the Constitution, in Article 1, Section 2, states “[An] Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.” Participation in the Census is required, but all personal information collected is kept in strict confidentiality for 72 years. Only generic data is released before that time, and then only to organizations and departments that show they have a valid reason for using it.
So when you see these Address Canvassers, or when they knock on your door (which they are required to do), please be polite, answer the few questions they might have, and know that they have been well trained to do their jobs quickly and efficiently.