Questions and Answers, The United States Census


Today I decided to write about the 2010 United States Census. I was inspired by an article in the Wall Street Journal called, “Republicans Fear Undercounting in Census.” I have more personal experience with the census than most Americans because this year I have applied to be a supervisor for the Davidson (Nashville metropolitan) county zone. I thought many of you who read my posts might be interesting in learning a little information from the inside. Here is the 411 on the census, questions and answers.

What happens if I do not turn in the census? Is there a fine for not completing the census?

If you received a census form and did not turn it in you will be called as much as three times by enumerators, another term for temporary-hired census workers. If they cannot get the information or reach you, you will be visited between one and several times, although this can vary. Primarily, visits are suggested on weekends and nights. Thus, do not be surprised if an enumerator knocks on your door during dinner. If you refuse to cooperate, you can be fined as much up to $100. I cannot speculate further as to what would happen thereafter.

Why does the government spend my tax dollars to complete the census? What is the purpose of the census?

Article 1 of the United States Constitution says that a census must be taken every 10 years in our country. Ever since 1790 that constitutional requirement has been followed. In 1790 there were about 4 million people in the United States. If no census had been taken at that time, we would not know that fact today. The census also allocates money and resources to help you – The information the census collects helps determine how more than $400 billion dollars of annual federal funding is spent on infrastructure and services that go to benefit the public including hospitals, job training centers, schools, bridges and roads. Lastly, it helps your voice be heard – Redistricting is the process of changing electoral district and constituency boundaries, usually in response to periodic census results. Census information affects the numbers of seats your state occupies in the U.S. House of Representatives.

How much can I earn working for the census?

The honest answer is it varies by the cost of living associated with where you are serving. However, I have not seen anything less than $11 per hour. In addition, you are reimbursed to a small percent for mileage accrued and additional costs with collecting information. Supervisors make more money and I have seen figures in the low 20’s per hour. Another example would be for my county, Davidson, enumerators start at $17 an hour. Not too bad considering you can work after hours as a second job. Which is what I plan to  do. In addition, my county is hiring 1,600 workers for the job. So, you can imagine it all adds up fast.

What number do I call to apply for census position? Follow this link, then the interactive map, then call your local branch office. Unfortunetly, most counties are no longer accepting applications. But you never know until you give them a call.

Ok, I applied to be a census enumerator, now what happens? Are there any tests involved?

Once you register, aka give them your name and location, you will be given an address and time to take the standard 28 question census test. The test consists of math, reading, English comprehension, map reading and some basic matching questions. I will say this, it is not an easy test that just anyone can achieve a 100 percent on. In fact, you only have 30 minutes to compete the test. In all honestly, of the 16 people that took the test in my class only about 6 finished in time. I finished with 5 minutes to spare and reviewed my work. But I will admit there were some tricky questions on there. I am not allowed to give details about the test for legal reasons (may disqualify me from the program) but be prepared. If you graduated high school, received a GED or higher you should be able to receive a passing score.

Why is their more controversy this year over the census, especially from conservative leaders?

The short answer is there is not a short answer. Some say that they are afraid the information they disclose will not be safe in government hands. Primarily because right now many individuals distrust the federal government. However, “By law, the Census Bureau cannot share respondents’ answers with anyone, including the IRS, FBI, CIA, INS or any other government agency. All Census Bureau employees take the oath of nondisclosure and are sworn for life to protect the confidentiality of the data. The penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment of up to five years.” In addition, for every 1 percent increase in mail response, the government – and ultimately taxpayers – save $80 to $90 million. So, forget the controversial,  fill it out and send it in.

Thank you for reading and I hope this helps anyone out there pondering the U.S census. Let me know if you have any additional questions.

Best regards,

Adam Faragalli

Follow me on Twitter@AdamFaragalli

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