Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Everyone Gets the Short Form

Posted By on Wed, Mar 17, 2010 at 11:04 AM

Here's a news flash for all the 2010 Census procrastinators out there: Everyone gets the short form.

We've been waiting two decades to be counted, actually. In 2000, citydesk was somewhere in East Africa when you all were filling out your Census forms. And since we are kind of Census data nerds over here, can you imagine the anticipation of participating in the actual data collection, what Idaho Census Bureau spokeswoman Stacy McBain calls the largest domestic mobilization, ever.

Well, our Census form arrived yesterday and it was a mighty thin envelope. We were expecting to provide all kinds of info about how cool we are, how we are hoping to boost the national character with our huge salary, our multiple degrees, the dozen languages we speak, the various beach and mountain homes we frequent, the six religions we dabble in, the types of technology and agriculture we practice, etc. But no such luck.

Somehow we missed the fact that this decennial count of the populace is just that: a numeration of the populace for the purpose of setting congressional districts and determining funding allocations to the states. Everyone gets the short form. Actually, there is no long form or short form. Just the Census form, and all it wants to know is who lives in your place, how old they are, their race, sex and any Hispanic origin. At least they ask about sex.

That's how it was until the 1940 Census, when they started sending the long form to a sample of American households. In 2000, about one in six households got the long form.

But all of that other juicy data has been rolled into the American Community Survey, which is a random sampling of households the Census Bureau collects from year to year.

Here's the twist: Everyone gets the regular 10-question Census form. But some people may get an American Community Survey as well, which you are expected to fill out so that journalists can plow through the data next year and come up with new ways of pigeon-holing your neighborhood—especially you folks out in Meridian.

So we did our part in the last decade, procreating twice and, like we said, advancing the national character. And while we're not sure anyone will ever notice, at least, for once, we count.

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