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Headcounts for the census: citizens and aliens

The process of a nationwide census is underway, as required by the U. S. Constitution (Article I, Section II). This decennial headcount (every ten years) has numerous uses, but foremost it is used by federal, state and local governments to assess needs and allocate funding, and to apportion the 435 seats in the House of Representatives among the 50 states.

The cost of compiling this survey is tremendous.

According to the General Accountability Office (GAO), “The Census Bureau (Bureau) estimates that the life cycle cost of the 2010 Census will be from $13.7 billion to $14.5 billion.”  However, GAO’s report goes on to say, “The Bureau's 2010 Census life cycle cost estimate is not reliable because it lacks adequate documentation and is not comprehensive, accurate, or credible.”

So, what will these federal dollars be expended on?

The data collected through the census includes total population, as well as population statistics broken into various age groups, race, and the level of education completed by each member of a household. There are also questions which assess the types of businesses in a given state, the size of the state’s land mass and the density of the state’s population in that area.

The most recent figures for Connecticut, generated in 2000, show 3,405,607 residents. Estimates for 2009 projected a 3.3% increase in the population. Further breakdowns of the data can be found at However, these estimates are just that: projections.

Now, the official headcount is on. Undoubtedly, you have received a census survey in the mail.

All communiqués from the U.S. Census Bureau sternly warn that federal law requires that all individuals reply--whether or not they are a citizen of the United States. States have taken a more plaintive tone for the participation of all individuals, seeing the size of their portion of an annual $400 billion in federal dollars at stake. Governor Rell's office estimates that each person not counted in the census represents $1,000 less a year that Connecticut receives in federal funds.  “We need everyone’s voice in Connecticut to be heard because we have to live with the results of the Census for the next 10 years,” Governor Rell said.

The Connecticut Public Broadcast Network ran a story on April 12th about Hispanic advocates in Danbury,  detailing their efforts to reach the illegal immigrant population there. “According to the Hispanic Center of Greater Danbury, many of these immigrants are Brazilian, Ecuadorian, and Dominican--and not all of them are here legally. So how do you get new immigrants, some with questionable citizenship status to fill out a government form? Ingrid Alvarez Demarzo, the Hispanic Center’s Executive Director says you do so by starting outreach early, real early.” The Hispanic Center has been working in partnership with the Census Bureau for nearly a year.

National participation rates are currently at 72%. Return rates in Connecticut have, thus far, been mixed.

Haddam, Connecticut currently tops the list with responses having been sent in from 85% of the households. The state’s largest metropolitan areas of Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport have done less well, with return rates below 60%.

Immigrants have offered a variety of reactions to paricipating in the census.  Many are frightened that submitting the census survey will identify them, when they prefer to remain low profile.  Others say, "'At least the president can count how many millions of us are in need and will do something to help us.'"

The Census Bureau says that $85 million is saved in expenditures for each one percent of returns voluntarily sent in to them. However, to counter the lack of responses, canvassing begins on Monday, May 3rd. “Canvassing” means that census workers will begin the arduous process of knocking on doors of households which have not responded to the census. The “enumerators” who will be conducting these activities will all have identification so that residents of a household will know that they are being approached in an official capacity.

For more information:

Residents can answer their 2010 Census questions in an interview over the phone. The Telephone Questionnaire Assistance system will conduct phone interviews through July 30th.

Telephone Questionnaire Assistance Phone Numbers:
• ENGLISH - 1-866-872-6868
• Chinese: 1-866-935-2010
• Korean: 1-866-955-2010
• Russian: 1-866-965-2010
• Spanish: 1-866-928-2010
• Vietnamese: 1-866-945-2010
• TDD (Telephone Display Device for the hearing impaired):

The State would like to remind residents who spend part of the year in alternate locations (aka “snowbirds”) to fill out the form using the address where you spend the majority of the year. If you received a form in March at a location where you are staying only temporarily, and not for the majority of the year, you should wait until you return to Connecticut to get a replacement questionnaire.

Replacement forms can be obtained by calling the Telephone Questionnaire Assistance center at the numbers above. Telephone lines will be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week from February 25, 2010 through July 30, 2010.


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