2010 Grand County census to kick-off in March | SkyHiNews.com

2010 Grand County census to kick-off in March

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County CO Colorado

The arrival of “Twenty-Ten” brings the decennial U.S. census, and bureau officials say the questionnaire this time around is much shorter than in the past.

The questionnaire has been reduced to 10 questions to boost participation and is deemed to take 10 minutes.

In March, census takers plan to distribute questionnaires the old-fashioned way, by visiting every Grand County residence in-person to drop off the questionnaire, which individuals should promptly fill out and put in the mail.

But in a county where 2000 census participation was among the lowest in Colorado with an 18-to 34-percent response rate, and with recent statistics showing 64 percent second-home owners, Grand County’s Census takers have their work cut out for them.

The first census takers of 1790 never dealt with the dilemma of multiple homeownership the way census employees do now.

“The American population is more transient than it was then,” said Bill Hugenberg, local census office manager, whose job covers Colorado’s Western Slope with 20 counties and two reservations.

In response to the “Snowbird” dilemma, the U.S. Census Bureau has added questions to the 2010 questionnaire concerning having more than one place to live.

Census employees will then follow up on these cases to avoid duplicates, according to a blog written by U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves.

Census schedule

The first wave of census-taking starts in March. The official census day is April 1, but survey takers should mail in their completed questionnaires as soon as they’re received. Then, from May to July, census employees will be following up on residences where individuals did not respond.

Why take it?

Other than the fact that the U.S. Constitution dictates census participation as mandatory for everyone, residents should take the census so populations of regions are more accurately represented in the U.S. House of Representatives, with electoral districts and with federal funding. More than $400 billion dollars of annual federal funding is allocated to communities to be spent on infrastructure and services in accordance with populations, such as emergency services, hospitals, job training centers, schools, senior centers, bridges, tunnels and other-public works projects. Not responding during the census can have an adverse affect on the entire community.

Every resident takes it

Answers to the census questionnaire are confidential. Everyone involved in working for the census is sworn to protect any information gained by the census, or face a $200,000 fine and five years in jail, Hugenberg said. The questionnaire asks survey takers to self-identify racial or ethnic origin, but there are no questions about citizenship or legal residency. The U.S. Census Bureau has special procedures to count everyone, including the homeless and those living in campgrounds or other unusual housing.

Grand County’s second-home owners

Each questionnaire is bar-coded to associate with a specific address, Hugenberg explained.

Therefore, census officials encourage part-time homeowners who get questionnaires at each of their addresses to pick the questionnaire of the address lived at most of the time, fill that one out and send it in.

For the questionnaire sent to the address lived at less, put a “zero” where it asks for the number of residents, then write “usual residence elsewhere” and leave the rest of the form blank. Send it in.

“The default is to count them where we find them, unless they tell us different,” Hugenberg said.

Questionnaires not yet online

According to a piece entitled “e-Census Unplugged” by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation – which advocates online census taking – the U.S. Census Bureau held off implementing online questionnaires for 2010, claiming that Internet data collection will not increase response rates or lower data collection costs. The bureau also said having the decennial census survey online could pose security risks, according to the article. But the U.S. census website states, “We are experimenting with internet response for the future.”

Census Bureau jobs in Grand County

About 20 jobs are being created in Grand County to distribute and follow-up on census questionnaires, according to Hugenberg. As many as 100 individuals will be selected for those positions to create a “pool of qualified people” in case hirees cannot fulfill duties. The basic enumerator pay rate is presently at $12.50 an hour. Applicants must pass an FBI background check and a 28-question basic reading, writing and skills test. To be connected to West Slope recruiters, applicants should call the census job line, 1-866-861-2010, to get signed up for the exam.

This census comes timely with high unemployment throughout the country. About 1.5 to 2 million jobs are being created out of the census, and census officials are saying the quality of applicants for jobs this year is expected to be higher than for any other census. “We hope that leads to a more accurate census,” Hugenberg said.

The long form

The American Community Survey conducted every year fills gaps left over from the new shorter decennial census, according to officials. Previously collected only in census years in conjunction with the decennial census, the American Community Survey is sent to a small percentage of population on a rotating basis throughout the decade. Since the American Community Survey is conducted every year – rather than once every ten years – it helps provide more current demographic and economic data throughout the decade. Respondents are required to answer all questions on the American Community Survey to the best of their ability, and response to this and other census surveys is required by law, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

For more information about the 2010 U.S. Census, visit http://www.census.gov. The Web site provides a sample PDF of the 2010 Census survey.