A Silly Question about the U.S. Census

Only, maybe not so much. Like most of us (well here in the U.S. anyway) we recently got a letter from the U.S. Census Bureau (or whatever their official name is) telling us that we were going to get a letter from them soon, requesting accurate updated census information about our household.

Then we got the census form. Then a few days later, we got another piece of mail from them, reminding us how important the Census Data is, and saying if we hadn’t mailed it back yet, would we please remember to do so Real Soon.

Now first off this seems like a lot of (expensive) mail for them to generate. The guys on the news say it’s worth it because there are so many people who won’t bother, and the census people have to send real live humans to each house that doesn’t respond, to get accurate data, etc etc. Okay fine, I’ll go along with that.

But: the instructions on the census form very clearly state that you are supposed to fill out the form with accurate information AS OF APRIL 1, 2010. And they’re already asking why we haven’t returned the form. Note that I am writing this blog entry on March 27, 2010 – and we received the “why haven’t you returned your form yet” postcard FIVE DAYS AGO.

Well, duh, it’s not April 1, 2010 yet. (Gotta wondered who picked April-Fools-Day as a return date, too.)

I know a lot of households won’t change from, say, March 20 to April 1. But, sadly, many of them will. People die, people move out, people split up. The kids leave. The kids come home. His or her kids come home – and need to be counted in census because they have to fit into classrooms.

So is this a case of “you can have it now, or you can have it right”? Do they want us to follow their instructions? If not, why did they include them? And if they DO want us to follow their instructions, why are they bugging us?

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