In 1787 the Constitution of the United States was adopted by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and ratifited by the states. In Article 1 the Constitution sets out the parameters for the Legislative Branch, including the qualifications for election and the method for apportioning members of the House of Representatives. For readers not up on their Constitutional history, seats in the House are allotted according to population. So how does the government do this? By conducting a census every 10 years, as mandated in the Constitution. Since 1790 there have been 23 of these counts, including this year’s census, and the uses of the information have grown to include drawing political boundaries and deciding how much tax money is handed out to cities and states. Today the Census Bureau sends out a questionnaire in March for people to fill out and return based on their home situation on April 1. The problem is that not everyone sends back those questionnaires.
Beginning this Saturday, May 1, the Census Bureau will be sending enumerators (counters) out to knock on the doors of those who did not fill out and send in their questionnaire. These people have been through hours of training in order to do their job, and they will be working to complete their assignments quickly and accurately. The questions they are asking are the same as those in the mail questionnaire, and all answers are strictly confidential. All of these enumerators are sworn to protect the information they collect, and they take their duties seriously. So if they happen to knock on your door, please take the 10-15 minutes it will take so that everyone can be counted. And if you are not comfortable talking with them, you can call the Census Bureau to verify that the person is an actual enumerator.
Just one caution – there have been reports of people claiming to be census workers going door-to-door asking people for their Social Security Number, bank account, credit card, and other sensitive information. Actual census workers will never ask for any of this. They are only interested in how many people live there, some basic data about these people, and whether you own or rent. If anyone comes to your home asking for sensitive financial information, do not give it to them. Contact the authorities immediately and give them as much detail as you can.
Check out more information on the 2010 Census.