Counting population: Census road tour begins

January 4, 2010

Road trip!

The Census Bureau on Monday launched the “2010 Census Portrait of America Road Tour” to reach out and convince everyone living in the United States to be counted in its once-a-decade population survey, which can alter political districts and affect where billions of dollars in federal funds are spent. USA/

The tour set off from New York City and will include 13 vehicles visiting about 800 events around the country over four months, including the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras.

Vehicle updates can be followed on Twitter @2010Portrait and on Facebook, MySpace, Flickr and YouTube.

The 10-question survey will be mailed to every home in America in March with a return deadline of April 1, regardless of the resident’s citizenship.  If the questionnaire is not mailed back by late April, then Census Bureau surveyors start knocking on doors to try to get the information face-to-face.

“That’s a very expensive thing for us to do,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves told Reuters in a telephone interview.

For every one percentage point of the population that returns the survey, the government saves about $85 million, he said. “So it’s really important to turn that in, if you’re worried about the federal deficit and things like that.”

The effort is aimed at producing a population count, as required by the U.S. Constitution, by the end of the year to determine representation in the U.S. House of Representatives for each state.

Population also determines how much money different areas receive from some federal programs. “The distribution of $400 billion a year is determined by Census count,” Groves said.

USA/The less tangible reasons are also important.  “After every Census the society is reminded of what it’s become, what it looks like, how it’s changed,” he said.

“And it sets up a discussion every decade in this society about what we’re becoming, how we’ve changed, what the future might bear. And that’s a good thing for the country to do every once in a while, and the Census allows it to happen,” Groves said.

The Census Bureau website includes guidance on filling out the survey in 59 languages.

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Photo credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson (New Year’s Eve celebration in New York’s Times Square), Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi (reveler wearing 2010 glasses New Year’s Eve)

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