Frequently Asked Questions

What's a Census? and Other Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Exactly who is counted during the census count?
  2. How many questions will the 2010 Census entail?
  3. What questions will the 2010 Census ask?
  4. How does census information affect my community?
  5. What is apportionment?
  6. In regards to the census, how is New York unique?
  7. What does decennial mean?

Getting, Completing, and Returning Census Questionnaires

  1. When and how will the census take place?
  2. How do I get a questionnaire?
  3. What should I do if I don’t get a questionnaire?
  4. How does the Census Bureau know which language-version of the questionnaire to send me?
  5. What if I speak a language other than English or Spanish?
  6. Where will I be counted?
  7. Where are college students counted?
  8. Where are people with more than one home counted?
  9. Why should I send my questionnaire back to the Census Bureau?
  10. What happens if I don’t send back my questionnaire?
  11. What is address canvassing?
  12. How are the homeless counted?

Confidentiality of Your Answers

  1. How secure and confidential is my census information?
  2. Does the Census Bureau share information with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Internal Revenue Service, courts, or the police?

Ways to Help the 2010 Census

  1. What is a Complete Count Committee?
  2. How can I help with the Census?
  3. How can I get a job with the Census?
  4. Are there things teachers can do to help out?
     


1. Exactly who is counted during the census count?

The census is a count of everyone residing in the United States: in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and America Samoa. This count includes people of all ages, races, ethnic groups – both citizens and non-citizens.

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2. How many questions will the 2010 Census entail?

The 2010 Census questionnaire has 10 easy questions for the head-of-household. For each additional person living in the household, there are seven of the same questions asked to the head-of-household (usually the person answering the questions). The simple, short questionnaire takes only minutes to complete and return by mail.

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3. What questions will the 2010 Census ask?

The 2010 questionnaire asks the following questions about every person:

  1. Their name
  2. Their relationship to the head-of-household (usually the person answering the questions)
  3. Their sex
  4. Their age and date of birth
  5. If they are of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin
  6. Their race
  7. If they sometimes live somewhere else

The questionnaire does not ask the head-of-household about their relationship with themselves. Instead it asks them:

  1. How many people are living in the house, apartment, or mobile home
  2. If there are other people staying with them that weren’t included in the previous question
  3. If they own or rent the housing unit
  4. Their telephone number

This simple, short questionnaire takes only a few minutes to complete and return by mail.

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4. How does census information affect my community?

Census data is used to determine the need for social services, including community development block grants and other grant programs essential to many communities. Census information helps determine locations for schools, roads, hospitals, child-care and senior centers, and more.

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5. What is apportionment?

Apportionment is the process of proportionately dividing the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives among the 50 states. This is based on each state’s population as counted in the decennial census.

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6. In regards to the census, how is New York unique?

New York’s population is extremely diverse. The people who reside in New York:

  • Are from many different backgrounds
  • speak a greater variety of languages than residents of most other states
  • may live in the nation’s largest and most densely populated city or in a remote area within the nation’s largest state park
  • may live here for only part of the year

In the 2010 Census, New York needs to reflect its true population. In order to predict, plan, and receive the resources necessary for the state’s future, the 2010 Census needs to be as accurate as possible.

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7. What does decennial mean?

Decennial means every 10 years. Therefore, the census is called the “decennial census” because it occurs every 10 years.

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8. When and how will the census take place?

In late March 2010, census questionnaires are mailed or delivered to households. Questionnaires are due by Census Day, April 1, 2010. Households that do not return the completed questionnaire by mail will be visited by census takers between April 2010 and July 2010. The census takers will physically knock on the doors of households that did not respond to the initial mail-back questionnaire to obtain the required census information. By December 2010 the Census Bureau delivers state population counts to the President for apportionment, the process of proportionately dividing the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives among the 50 states. The population counts needed to redraw the state’s Congressional, State Senate, State Assembly, county legislative, and municipal council districts is delivered to the governor and state legislative leaders by the end of March 2011.

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9. How do I get a questionnaire?

The Census Bureau delivers the questionnaire to a housing unit not to an individual person. Most housing units in New York State will get the questionnaire by mail in mid- to late-March 2010. In a few areas of the state, where mail is not delivered to a housing unit, such as areas where residents are required to use PO Boxes, or where the address does not clearly show which housing unit is associated with it, such as rural delivery areas, the Census Bureau will hand-deliver a questionnaire.

Questionnaires for people living in college dorms, fraternity/sorority houses, nursing homes, military barracks, prisons, etc., also called group quarters, will be delivered in a way the Census Bureau and the facility administrator decide is the most effective distribution method.

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10. What should I do if I don’t get a questionnaire?

If you don’t receive a questionnaire for some reason, or think the person filling out the questionnaire for where you live didn’t include you, you can go to a “Be Counted” site and get a “Be Counted” questionnaire to complete and send to the Census Bureau. This form asks the same basic information as the regular questionnaire, but also asks for an address and other information that the Census Bureau will use to make sure you aren’t counted twice. These questionnaires will be available in several different languages.

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11. How does the Census Bureau know which language-version of the questionnaire to send me?

In most areas the English language questionnaire will be sent to every household. The Census Bureau is using data from the 2000 Census to identify neighborhoods where a large proportion of the population speaks Spanish at home. Bilingual English/Spanish questionnaires will be mailed in these neighborhoods instead of the English only questionnaire.

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12. What if I speak a language other than English or Spanish?

The census questionnaire is available in six primary languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Russian. Language Assistance Guides are available in more than 51 languages and are available through Telephone Assistance Centers (TACs) and Questionnaire Assistance Centers (QACs). These TACs will be available for people to request a questionnaire in one of these six languages. The QACs will have translations of the questionnaires in over 40 other languages and will be available around the state to offer assistance to people who may need support in understanding the census form.

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13. Where will I be counted?
Most people are counted at the home or apartment they sleep at most of the time, but New Yorkers have living arrangements that can’t be described this easily. In order to help clarify where people should be counted, the Census Bureau has created a set of residency rules.

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14. Where are college students counted?

The 2010 Census counts people where they physically live most of the time as of April 1, 2010, NOT their legal or voting address. Since college students typically live at their college address 8 months a year and their parents’ home for 4 months a year, they should be counted at their COLLEGE address.

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15. Where are people with more than one home counted?

The 2010 Census counts people where they physically live most of the time as of April 1, 2010, NOT their legal or voting address. Therefore, people who have more than one home should return the 2010 Census questionnaire from the address they live the longest during the year. For example, if someone lives in New York State from mid-April to mid-December, 8 months, and in Florida during the rest of the year (mid-December to mid-April), 4 months, they should return the questionnaire for their New York State address and indicate that they “live at a seasonal or second residence” for the last question asked of each person.

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16. Why should I send my questionnaire back to the Census Bureau?

Sending your questionnaire back to the Census Bureau soon after you get means the Census Bureau won’t have to send someone to your house to get the answers to the questions. (The Census Bureau MIGHT still send someone to your house because of other surveys they conduct or as part of the effort to evaluate the quality of the 2010 Census, but these are very unlikely to happen.) One benefit of the Census Bureau not having to visit your house is that it helps ensure the confidentiality of your information since fewer people see your answers to the questions. Another benefit is that it saves everyone money since sending you a second questionnaire is expensive and sending an enumerator to ask you the questions in person is VERY expensive.

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17. What happens if I don’t send back my questionnaire?

If you don’t send your questionnaire back to the Census Bureau you will receive a reminder postcard and then a second questionnaire. If you still do not return your questionnaire, the Census Bureau will send an enumerator to your house several times in an attempt to get the information from you. After a few attempts to get the information from you, if you don’t provide it, the enumerator will try to contact your neighbors for this information. The easiest way to avoid having someone visit your house asking questions about you is to complete and return your census questionnaire as soon as you receive it.

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18. What is address canvassing?

The address canvassing operation is a critically important first step in assuring that every housing unit receives a census questionnaire in March 2010. Census workers will visit neighborhoods to verify housing units. In most cases, they will knock on doors to verify addresses and inquire about the number of living quarters on the property. This is the first census to include group quarters (such as dormitories, group homes, prisons and homeless shelters) in the address canvassing operation. This step should improve both the accuracy and coverage of the final count. Census workers will use hand-held computers equipped with GPS to increase geographic accuracy.

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19. How are the homeless counted?

Because there is no clear definition of the homeless population and they actually have many different living arrangements, the Census Bureau has a very difficult time counting and reporting this population. The Census Bureau counts this group in several operations. One of these operations is to count people getting services at places such as homeless shelters or mobile food vans. Another operation is to work with local communities and advocates for the homeless to identify places where the homeless congregate at night, such as specific parks, streets, or under bridges. Then the Census Bureau will send enumerators out to count people at these locations on a particular night in March 2010.

Many people who cannot afford their own homes or apartments will move in with family and/or friends for a period of time. These people should be included in that housing unit’s questionnaire.

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20. How secure and confidential is my census information?

Your census information is very secure. Every Census Bureau worker takes an oath for life to protect the confidentiality of census responses. Violation would result in a jail term of up to five years and/or a fine up to $250,000. By law, the Census Bureau cannot share an individual’s answers with anyone. Your information is NOT accessible through the Internet.

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21. Does the Census Bureau share information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Internal Revenue Service, courts, or the police?

No, individual census records are not shared with anyone, including government agencies or private organizations. It is unlawful for the Census Bureau to give personally identifiable information about an individual to any other individual or agency for 72 years after it is collected. After 72 years, the individual census records are sent to the National Archives where they are made public primarily for genealogical research.

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22. What is a Complete Count Committee?

Complete Count Committees provide local outreach and education about the importance of the Census. Complete Count Committees can be formed at the state, county, and local levels. New York has a statewide Complete Count Committee, and many counties and cities have organized their own Complete Count Committees as well. These committees include representatives from community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, local governments, media and advertising groups, and businesses that are putting forth their time and resources to ensure an accurate count of the people who reside in New York in 2010.

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23. How can I help with the Census?

There are many ways to help with the Census. These include joining a local Complete Count Committee and/or partnering with the Census Bureau. Our regional coordinator in your area can help you formalize these arrangements and suggest other ways to get involved.

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24. How can I get a job with the Census?

Counting everyone living in New York State is a very labor intensive project. Depending on the activities at the time, the Census Bureau needs many thousands of workers throughout New York State. Most of these jobs last about 6 weeks, have flexible hours, and are in your local area. The Census Bureau’s website has a tremendous amount of information about these jobs. To take the 30-minute basic skills test for one of these jobs call 1-866-861-2010.

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25. Are there things teachers can do to help out?

Teachers, especially those teaching kindergarten through sixth grade, can help promote the 2010 Census by taking part in the Census Bureau’s Census in Schools program. This program has its own website that includes information for teachers, kids, and teens .  There are activities for students, including coloring pages and state facts pages, and lesson plans for teachers.

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