We received our 2010 Census questionnaire this week. Last week we got our advance letter, warning us that the questionnaire would be here shortly. That letter cost the taxpayers something like 85 million dollars nationally. The Census director, Robert Groves, says that sending that letter was worth it because it is expected to increase the response rate to the questionnaire by five or more percent. That would save money on sending census takers to follow up on those who don’t fill out the questionnaire. Of course, the idea that money will be saved anywhere in this process is belied by the fact that preliminary census efforts earlier this year had cost overruns. Operations to save money by scoping out buildings to see whether they were occupied proved too expensive. People were hired, trained and worked only one day before quitting.
The questions on the questionnaire we received include whether you are at your address, because the mailing is addressed only to “Resident.” You are asked to give your name, phone number, how many people live at your address, their names, whether you rent or own, and the ages, dates of birth and races of everyone who will be living at the address as of April 1.
Since there are only two people in my household, it took little time to fill out the short form. I understand that the long form questionnaire that asks many more questions will come later and, as always, will go to fewer people. Cross your fingers they don’t come back at you with the long form.