Five annoying things about the Census

March 17, 2010

I’m not a trouble-maker. I do what I’m told. But  a few days ago I made fun of the U.S. Census people for spending a fortune to send letters telling us our Census forms would arrive soon. I figure I’m alert enough to spot the form when it lands.

census joseph 220I guess the Census is a good thing. They had one in the Bible, which is how Mary and Joseph ended up in Bethlehem. There’s a census every 10 years, so that’s why they went in the year 0000.

Anyhow, my Census form DID arrive, just as the letter warned, and it got me annoyed all over again. Here’s why:

1. THE ENVELOPE: It says in big black letters, “U.S. Census Form Enclosed. YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW.”

Now, most people don’t respond well to threats when they’ve done nothing wrong. If my monthly Visa bill arrived with a message like that on the envelope, I’d change to a different credit card.

census envelope 200If that’s the heavy-handed way the Census people want to play, why don’t they just do a human sacrifice in every block, so other residents will quickly fall into line?

2. MY MAILBOX IS FULL: They sent three forms in three envelopes to my single-family residence, marked Apartment 1, 2 and 3. Neighbors say there may have been apartments here 20 years ago, but shouldn’t they have sorted that out by now?  If I only fill out one of the forms, am I in trouble because the other two don’t get returned?

3. I CAN’T PREDICT THE FUTURE: The first question – I’m not making this up – is “How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment or mobile home on April 1, 2010?” WERE? That date is more than two weeks from now. I guess I could wait until April Fool’s Day to count them, but my warning letter said to return the form “promptly.”

USA-CENSUS/ALASKA4. HEY, IS THIS A TRICK QUESTION? Question 2 asks, “Were there any additional people staying here April 1, 2010, that you did not include in Question 1? That’s right, I’m such a total imbecile I didn’t understand the first question, but don’t worry, I’ll get it right this time.

5. WHAT DO YOU THINK I AM, ANYWAY? Here’s what really pushed me over the edge. After asking about my sex, race, age, etc., the form asks if I “sometimes live or stay somewhere else?” and if yes, one of the options to check is “In jail or prison.”

Well, I guess the secret is out, Census people. I’m a 72-year-old female Pacific Islander who isn’t living here two weeks from now because I spend lots of my time in prison. I hope you find this useful.

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U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves gets a ride in a dogsled from the Noorvik airstrip into the remote Inupiat Eskimo village in Northwestern Alaska in this January 25, 2010 handout. REUTERS/Al Grillo/U.S. Census Bureau/

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40 comments

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@RB: 72-year-old female story…A big LOL :D

Posted by fwd079 | Report as abusive

Wow. And we thought the IRS was bad. I’m looking forward to the census taker knocking on the door of my cave.

Posted by Dave_not_dave | Report as abusive

You should not have lied like that. They are gonna find out you are not 72 ya know.

Posted by iflydaplanes | Report as abusive

Well, THAT explains the first letter. It was to warn you that the second piece of ill-written junk mail was, in fact, the actual census form. Otherwise most people would automatically decide it was either spammail or an early April Fools joke and ditch it.

Posted by AllThatJazz | Report as abusive

On reflection, it’s obvious that 10 years is not enought time for this agency to:
1) Create a coherent and pertinent census form, and
2) Design and implement an ad compaign for #1 above, even by using the lowest bidder.
I love seeing my tax dollars being ‘used’ in such a novel and efficient manner.

Posted by AllThatJazz | Report as abusive

It’s funny you mention the IRS Dave, I have been trying to get a job there for the past six months. I need to get out retail badly.

Posted by iflydaplanes | Report as abusive

I did not make it up. The URL is civilrights.org/census

Posted by rcbasler | Report as abusive

I TOSSED MINE ASIDE PRETTY QUICKLY:)

Posted by godot769 | Report as abusive

What’s more, there was a note with my census form, telling me to return it “TODAY”, which was Monday, March 15. How am I supposed to know TODAY, in absolute certainty, who will be living here on April 1? Daughter could say good bye to son-in-law and move in tomorrow…. For example.

Posted by Molly38230 | Report as abusive

So wait, you just left them waiting for Godot769?

Posted by rcbasler | Report as abusive

While this is all very amusing, the fact is our state $$$ are given to us by the feds – the feds award any state $$ by using the census as fact that (just one example) in your neighborhood, my neighborhood, there is no need for a clinic to get federally funded aid because not enough people live there. The reason they know that is because individuals did not fill out the census form.
So I hope we all find it just as amusing to find that our local libraries will close due to lack of funds blah, blah, blah.

Posted by elview | Report as abusive

This is stupid. The UK census is much more sensible. Surely a nation of 250M people has more financial resources to devote to getting their census right, than a nation of 60M people?

Posted by compsci | Report as abusive

Weren’t there reports that the White House was to take control of the census. The idea is to be able to do some dirty tricks in re-districting to favor the democrats in the next election.

Posted by markson | Report as abusive

Here’s a thought: The federal government should get out of the “funding” business. Then, perhaps, the federal government will no longer blackmail states into complying with federal laws so as to obtain federal funding. Hey, states could obtain their own funding for their schools, highways, etc. from the state’s own citizens, and then my tax dollars would be spent in my own state, instead of God knows where on God knows whom. Then, I won’t have to send huge checks 5 times a year to the federal government to pay my taxes so that the feds can spend billions figuring out how the universe came into being. Etc. And, as a real bonus, the federal government could do away with the census, period, since it won’t have to rely upon the census to determine what areas should receive what funding. Think of the money the federal government would save. And, if it did not require so much of my money to give away to other people, it could do away with many of the IRS employees.

Posted by DoctorDoll | Report as abusive

Uh, Doc, you do know, don’t you, that this blog is entirely funded by the federal government?

Posted by rcbasler | Report as abusive

You have an excellent point, Elview. I want an accurate census, but I want them to conduct the census efficiently. To do this you must gain people’s cooperation, and it helps to look smart if you want someone to trust you.

Last time around, an error caused an extra digit to be printed before the street address; the post office agreed to cooperate and deliver them anyhow. How can they miss an error like this?

http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/ 2000/cb00cn21.html

Posted by Molly38230 | Report as abusive

Well I know I’m moving before April 1st, so I called & asked what to do….they said I have to wait & see if I get one after I move & if not they’ll send somebody by my house. Can I call & request one when I move I asked? The lady said ‘uhm,’ so I said thank you for your time and answered my other line. And now I’m to throw the mandatory by law one in the trash! I really don’t understand why they just didn’t wait till April 1st to send these?!?!

Posted by itsnotme | Report as abusive

Dr. D. I guess you missed when I said I have been trying to get a job at the IRS for the past six months? And here you are saying they could do away with many of their employees. Thaaaaaaaaaaanks. :p

Mr. B. you better not let Shra find out people are getting informative here. My lights flickerd all the way over here the last time she fired her zapper off.

Oh and compsci, it’s not about having the financial resources, it’s about having intelligence in government. So yeah…….

Posted by iflydaplanes | Report as abusive

Social comments and analytics for this post…

This post was mentioned on Twitter by rbasler: Five annoying things about the Census http://blogs.reuters.com/oddly-enough/20 10/03/17/five-annoying-things-about-the- census/ #census…

In the time it took you to get worked up over the census form you could have filled it out and put it in the mailbox- it takes all of three minutes. It certainly would have taken less time than writing this absurd and whiny blog.

Posted by Koevoet | Report as abusive

OK, a couple of things…

First, that poster was apparently not funded by our tax money.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/con tent/article/2009/12/15/AR2009121502928. html

Second, from that article, the historical context doesn’t exactly provide a pro-census perspective: “Why don’t they say [Jesus's] parents were forced to go to the census, forced to go away from their land for oppressive purposes?”

And getting back to the first point — although the government did not pay for that poster, don’t conclude that the Census Bureau is efficient: from a 2008 press release http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/ releases/archives/2010_census/011773.htm l
“The life cycle cost for the Reengineered 2010 Census was estimated at $11.8 billion in the FY 2009 Budget Request, including $1.8 billion for the American Community Survey which replaced the long-form. The new estimated life cycle cost for the 2010 Census is $13.7 to $14.5 billion.

Since the 1970 Decennial Census, costs have risen substantially from one decennial to the next. In 2010 dollars, the 2000 Census life cycle would have cost approximately $8.2 billion; a 100 percent increase over the 1990 Census ($4.1 billion); which was about a 58 percent increase over the 1980 Census ($2.6 billion); which was a 160 percent increase over the 1970 Census ($1.0 billion).”

The Census Bureau’s website, in justifying the enormous cost of advertising intended to improve response rates, states “It costs taxpayers $25 per person to send a census taker door-to-door…” Hmmm…$25 per person, times 300 million people, that’s $7.5 billion. That just leaves me scratching my head as to why it isn’t a better idea to hire several thousands of people to go around door-to-door, unless it costs $7 billion just to add up the numbers. Or to figure out they should ask people to report in March on the April residents.

That makes annoying point #6, to me.

[Sorry, I know this is supposed to be a fun blog, nothing serious. I promise next time to make a completely silly comment with absolutely no factual content.]

Posted by HaroldW | Report as abusive

Hey! At least they paid the postage to send it back. The IRS doesn’t. And there are so many IRS forms to fill out that it requires at least 2 stamps.

Posted by birder | Report as abusive

Hey, Koevoet, thanks for stopping by our whiny blog. Koevoet, put both of your palms on your monitor. Shra, we have a new visitor – show him/her what he/she has won!

Posted by rcbasler | Report as abusive

I pity our descendants who use the 2010 census to try to find information, as we do for our pre-1930 ancestors. Previous censuses collected information useful to pretty much everyone, like your occupation, where you were born, and where your parents were born. This census doesn’t provide future generations with much of anything. It’s just fodder for present-day political maneuvers.

Posted by Hornman | Report as abusive

I love this = now you should try to couple that with working for the US Census – It is like an octopus – with hands and none of the 8 hands knows what the other is doing – unless there are forms signed to back it up – And all that stuff that has been handed out to promote the census – Where and how much of it was made in China??? Making China a economic investment in the US Census. All the made in China stickers we had to peel off those items given to the US taxpayers. In these economic times – how many Americans with out jobs could have been paid some of a wage making these items. But then it would have required more bureaucratic paper work there fore costing the lives of more trees. I sure hope that there will be many forests planted in the name of the 2010 Census.

Posted by mncountryangel | Report as abusive

I just wondering why they didn’t save paper/trees by emailing everyone. Been so long since I had paper mail I almost had a heart attack after I made a mess in my pants. I did find a few bills tho.

Posted by DemDude1 | Report as abusive

I cannot help but wonder why Robert’s doughnuts are not mandatory before reading this blog… it would make for more interesting comment reading, wouldn’t it?

Posted by justM | Report as abusive

STOP IT!!!! ALL you serious talkers… OUT!!!!
Dang… as if my headache wasnt enough before I had to see your comments…..
OUT NOW!!! Where is my zapper!!!!

Posted by Shra | Report as abusive

Yeah Shra..you tell ‘em! he he :D

Posted by fwd079 | Report as abusive

I can see it now…fortune tellers and psychics will make a killing over this!!

Say, Unca, DK should definitely be listed on your census form! I’d totally count my Etcetera. (Note, his name ain’t George :D).

E.

PS> I baked chocolate cake and brought into to share with the cow-irkers. Who’s wants some?! :P

Posted by egeria | Report as abusive

[...] I thought I was the only one bemused by the Census 2010 ad campaign.  There’s been a constant bombardment of ads of all types reminding me that in a few weeks I’ll be getting a big piece of paper in the mail from the US Census Bureau, and that they want all my identifying information.  They remind me how important it is for funding purposes, because apparently all life is about fighting for free money from the federal government.  I’m getting fed up, and apparently I’m not the only one.  Here’s five of the most annoying aspects about the Census. [...]

Don’t say I didn’t warn ya! :)

Posted by iflydaplanes | Report as abusive

Oh and also, in regards to the Jesus census poster… was it an immaculate census? Har har har

And wait… if God is everywhere and in everything, would you have to include Him in your census reply also? What if you don’t believe in God and don’t include Him but it turns out He is real..would you get in trouble? Or how about the opposite?

And what about ghosts that haunt your house?? What if you want an exorcism done but the priest can’t make it until April 2??

And what if I constantly live in a state of denial? Do I have to mark that off as sometimes living or staying somewhere else?????

Posted by iflydaplanes | Report as abusive

And the government wants to take over our healthcare. Imagine the forms we get to fill out then….

1) What will your weight be 2 weeks from now?
2) Did you gain or lose any additional weight 2 weeks from now that you did not include in question 1?

Posted by CrazyB | Report as abusive

Pilot, may I suggest you take a small fix of my recipe? All those questions will slowly, quietly and nicely dither into nothingness…

Just had my afternoon dose, you can tell!

Posted by justM | Report as abusive

The last time I was involved in a census was when I was visiting the happy country of New Zealand. Because I was there on the annointed day, I had to fill out a form. At least I could do it ONLINE, yes they let you use that Internet thingy, back in 2008, to file your census return.

Posted by zeitgeist | Report as abusive

I do appreciate the fix justM…. you are right, the nothingness makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. :)

Posted by iflydaplanes | Report as abusive

what about the note under question 7 which asks about the age of Person 1?

“Please report babies as age 0 when the child is less than 1 year old.”

Person 1 is defined in Question 5 as the person who owns or rents the residence.

Posted by trx323 | Report as abusive

Chocolate cake………. yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!
I would have to suffice with hot chocolate though…. :)

Posted by Shra | Report as abusive

Shra, as long as you can have it with some nice Tegretol in it, I am sure it will suffice… in fact, after one you won’t even remember you were craving for Chocolate cake!

Posted by justM | Report as abusive

Oh hey, I’ll be posting a pic of my chocolate cake on FB.

Will be spending this afternoon wondering what I can bake this weekend.

:D

E.

Posted by egeria | Report as abusive

E, hank goodness I am at work and will not be able to view said pic right now cause I am waaaaaayyyyy to hungry at the moment to be able to look at one of your culinary delights!

Posted by iflydaplanes | Report as abusive

[...] in March, I wrote “Five annoying things about the Census.” It’s one of my most popular posts for the year so far. Apparently others share my [...]

[...] in March, I wrote “Five annoying things about the Census.” It’s one of my most popular posts for the year so far. Apparently others share my [...]

[...] readers of  this blog will recall my complaints about the U.S. Census last [...]

[...] in March, I wrote “Five annoying things about the Census.” It’s one of my most popular posts for the year so far. Apparently others share my [...]