COLUMBIA — The 2010 census is underway, with the U.S. Census Bureau having begun to send out questionnaires expected to arrive as soon as Monday to more than 120 million addresses nationwide.
The bureau encourages residents to complete the 10-question census form and return it in the accompanying postage-paid envelope, said Rich Gerdes, assistant regional census manager in Kansas City.
Mandated by the U.S. Constitution, the 2010 census is a count of everyone living in the U.S. and is used for distributing more than $400 billion in federal funds to tribal, state and local governments each year. The census also functions as a way to allocate congressional seats to the states.
Gerdes said that for every 1 percent of households mailing back census forms, taxpayers save $85 million in operational costs necessary for census takers to go door to door. If a household does not return the form, the government must send out a person to collect the information.
“It’s a huge, huge savings in taxpayer funds if we get a good response,” he said.
Census workers will be sent out to contact individual addresses starting May 1.
Gerdes said about 67% of households nationwide mailed back the forms in the 2000 census.
Of 120 million households, 9 percent have non-traditional addresses, such as P.O. boxes. Those who live in rural areas will receive hand-delivered census forms this month.
Gerdes also said responses to questionnaires are kept confidential, and the government only releases statistical data free from personal information.
“It’s something we pay very close attention to,” he said of the bureau’s efforts to maintain confidentiality.
Go to the 2010 census Web site for more information.