2010 Census form expected to be one of shortest in history

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 7:22 p.m. CDT, Thursday, March 25, 2010

COLUMBIA — In the last 10 years, the United States unofficially gained more than 22 million residents, while Missouri added nearly 315,000 and Columbia hit the 100,000 mark.

All that should be documented this year in the 2010 U.S. Census, the nation's 10-year population accounting. The census campaign kicked off Tuesday in Columbia with a press conference in the Boone County office building on Walnut Street, though residents won't see a survey in the mail until mid-March.

The 2010 census form will be one of the shortest in census history, according to the bureau. The form will include just 10 questions taking about 10 minutes to complete.

On Tuesday, U.S. Census Bureau officials emphasized the important role students play in the count for both Columbia and Missouri. 

In a city with 30,200 MU students, plus those at Columbia and Stephens colleges, the number is crucial to federal funding. The census counts college students living away from their parents' home as part of a campus housing number.

"If we don’t know who those people are, demographically, then we cannot serve them adequately," said Julie Middleton, director of organizational development, MU Extension.     

Understanding that the student population is sometimes difficult to tally, Middleton said on-campus information centers will provide students information they need to participate in the survey.

"The message we want to deliver is to count everyone, count everyone once … and to count everyone in the right place," she said.

The U.S. Census Bureau uses the data to determine legislative and congressional apportionment, as well as to fund schools, child-care centers, shopping centers, roads, public housing and more.

Results from the U.S. Census will determine what portion Columbia is to receive from the nation's $400 billion in federal funds for 2010.

"It’s extremely important at the local level,” said Mayor Darwin Hindman. “In Columbia, and Boone County, we need those federal funds. If we don’t get everyone counted, then the federal funds are still going to be distributed, but we simply won’t get our share."

Tim Teddy, director of the city’s Planning and Development Department, called census results essential for tracking city development trends from decade to decade. The results also provide a demographic structure to look at housing, employment, population and transportation.

The U.S. Census counts both citizens and non-citizens, including homeowners, the homeless and others on the move.

"There may be some individuals that are doubling up with another family, there may be some in shelters ... there may be some that may not have any place to go at night," said Dennis Johnson, regional director of the Regional Census Center in Kansas City.

"We have efforts in all of those areas to make sure that those individuals are part of the count," he said. "We’re working very closely with all types of shelters and organizations that provide homes and resources for individuals that might be in a transition phase."

Johnson said $80 million was spent on advertising to reach minority and disenfranchised populations nationwide through media outlets targeting these populations.

The standard long-form questionnaire received in 2000 by one in six households will not be part of this year’s census.

The detailed socioeconomic information in the long form will now be collected annually from a small percentage of the population through the American Community Survey.

Census officials also hope the shorter form will improve the likelihood that individuals will fill out and mail back their forms.








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