General Question

silverfly's avatar

Should I fill out my US census form?

Asked by silverfly (4045points) March 16th, 2010

I tend to be pretty skeptical… especially when it comes to rules and the government. I just got a US census form to fill out but I’m hesitant to do so. Is there any reason I should not?

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55 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Well it only takes a second and the information you reveal is minimal as in just your name and birthday and race and whether you rent or own the place you live in (information you probably reveal to many sources besides the govt). Secondly the census is important because it doesn’t happen often and the data from the census decides everything from how much political pull each congressional district has to how many hospitals or schools an area needs to funding. You will be helping your community.

TLRobinson's avatar

Yes! Like voting, it counts.

janbb's avatar

Yes, fill it out.

wundayatta's avatar

That depends. Where do you live?

wundayatta's avatar

No. Don’t fill it out.

And when they call you, don’t answer, and when they knock at the door, bring out your shotgun. And tell all your neighbors not to fill it out, either. Ok?

silverfly's avatar

@wundayatta You want to elaborate?

ETpro's avatar

You are required by law tro do so. It is not just a law of Congress, it is in the Constitution. We Americans have been doing it for 220 years every 10 years. The statistics gathered are used to assign representation to states, to apportion money for road projects and such and by many private and state agencies in figuring out how many people live where, and what services (schools, police, fire protection and so forth) they will need.

I am mystified by the sudden right-wing nut job outcry about the census. But hopefully if enough deep red districts refuse to fill theirs in, they will loose their representation in Congress. You’ll notice that when the famous RWNJ from Minnesota, Michelle Bachmann, realized her district might be on the chopping block if the head count went down a bit, she suddenly changed her tune about refusing to comply with the law.

wundayatta's avatar

Texas already has too much influence in Congress. The fewer people counted in Texas means more Congress critters for people in my state! I love that you are thinking of not filling it out!

silverfly's avatar

Just because I live in Texas doesn’t mean I’m a right-wing nut job. There’s plenty of us here that don’t watch Fox.

TexasDude's avatar

I’m rather “right wing” by Fluther standards, and even I don’t get the anti-census tin-foil hattery.

Fill it out. It will be used to determine your state’s representation.

wundayatta's avatar

Doesn’t matter. You are overrun with right wing nut jobs in Texas. Even if you are liberal, the fewer people in Texas who are counted, the better. Oh, and it’ll be so much fun, should that happen, to see Republicans arguing for estimated results in order to make up for the undercount. Although, maybe not. There are so many undocumented aliens in Texas, that counting them would be far more harmful to Republicans than an undercount of nut jobs.

wundayatta's avatar

In any case, anyone who wants to be properly represented in Congress should fill it out. Anyone who wants to cede their power to another part of the country should not fill it out. The Census distributes not only political power, but Federal dollars for programs that support the elderly and the middle class and farms and, well, just about everything the Government buys.

So go ahead. Give up your money and power. Trash your Census form.

lilikoi's avatar

They also ask for phone #.

I am skeptical, too. They say all info will be anon, yet you have to provide your name, birthday, and contact info. I’ve looked at census data before, and it doesn’t seem necessary to ask for name, birthday, or phone #. The form is pretty darn straight forward. How could anyone mess it up? I mean really.

wundayatta's avatar

Ain’t America great?!?

They never give out names. They only give out data that can not identify you. They have complex algorithms that make sure no identifiable data is released, and they are damn good at their job. They have to be. If anyone ever got identified, no one would ever fill out a form again.

Only after 70 years go by do they release address level information, and they still don’t give out names. Census data are the most used data I know of. Every researcher I know of in the social sciences uses it. They all complain about how frustrating it is to not have smaller geographic units for the data. They wouldn’t be complaining if the data weren’t kept totally confidential.

TexasDude's avatar

also, it’s not like The Man doesn’t know who you are anyway. You have a SSN and a driver’s license, right?

lilikoi's avatar

And that begs the question – Why do they bother collecting this data to begin with?

mollypop51797's avatar

Eh, just fill it out! like @TLRobinson, it’s like voting. Unless you want to be tracked down, (more specifically what @wundayatta said) then fill it out! :)

silverfly's avatar

Everyone is so sure about the information that is collected and where it goes and how it’s used. Doesn’t it bother you that the country is run by selfish politicians? Why should I trust these people? Because they tell me to??

ETpro's avatar

@lilikoi You have a social security card, I would presume. You pay taxes? Don’t you think the government has that data already. The purpose of asking for it in the census is so the Census Bureau can work up statistical analysis of things like how many young people in this area, how many school age, how many elderly. Is the average survival rate increasing or decreasing. The phone number is so they can call if there is anything unclear. You may do a good job of filling yours in, but I bet if you worked processing the forms you would be amazed at some of the unintelligible responses they get.

Brian1946's avatar

I’m fairly sure that the SSA and/or the IRS already have all the data asked for in the Census questionnaire.

However, if you believe that failure to comply will result in Nazi-Communist census workers storming your bunker and hauling you off to one of the Obamanation FEMA-built concentration camps, then by all means don’t fill it out. ;-)

wundayatta's avatar

@lilikoi If you read the comments above yours, you would know what it’s used for.

silverfly's avatar

And just for the record… I filled it out. Happy?! :)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@silverfly well it’s not for my benefit but yes I’m glad you did

silverfly's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Thanks. I’m still not voting though. You can’t make me. :)

lilikoi's avatar

@ETpro This is an issue of inefficiency. Your name and birthday are irrelevant. Your age can be given in years without providing a specific birthday. The form is so straight forward and simple, a two year old could fill it out – a phone number should not really be necessary. And not everyone has a phone number anyway.

lilikoi's avatar

@wundayatta I know what compiled census data looks like. I’ve used it before for various things. My point is that your name, birthday, and phone number are irrelevant. If they don’t give our your name, birthday, or phone number – ever – then why do they need it? They don’t.

ETpro's avatar

@lilikoi Your name and birthday are not irrelevant. They allow a cross check to see that the same person doesn’t get counted twice at different residences. There can easily be a lot of John Smiths living in New York City, but not many with the same date of birth.

As to a phone number, if you don’t have one you enter “none”.

wundayatta's avatar

They are quite relevant. You need to know who to talk to in the house if there are any discrepancies on the form. You need the phone number to be able to reach them. You need the birthday as well as the age in years in order to make sure there aren’t mistakes there.

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

This question inspired me to fill mine out as well. It’s okay @wundayatta, I’m not from Texas. ;)

filmfann's avatar

It’s very important to your community, and your representation in State and National offices.
Don’t worry about misuse of this information. It is secure. Fill it out.

Brian1946's avatar


“And just for the record… I filled it out. Happy?! :)”

In that case, hopefully Texas won’t secede from the US because if it does become a Perrynation, Rick’s Ranger’s might deport you for complying with the Obamanation. ;-)

lilikoi's avatar

Okay fine. You’re saying it is to idiot-proof the thing. What kind of dummy fills out a Census form twice. And what kind of dummy can’t get their age right? * sighs *

KhiaKarma's avatar

I’m going to fill mine out! I work in social services and $ to the state depends on the data obtained.

AstroChuck's avatar

Of course you should. Quit being paranoid.

Arisztid's avatar

Eh just fill it out.

For anyone interested, here are the questions on it.

Since my “race” is not listed (it never is on any form), I wonder if I would get in trouble for listing my “race” as the Indy 500.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Arisztid I just filled all of ours out for the home and there is a space to put a race that’s not listed…but that’d be funny too

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Census records do not become public until 70 years after the fact. As a genealogical researcher, I’m anxiously awaiting the release of the 1940 census this year on

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@PandoraBoxx You’re a genealogical researcher? That’s cool.

plethora's avatar

@wundayatta “undocumented aliens” PC terms really bug me. That would be illegal aliens

knitfroggy's avatar

I don’t understand why someone wouldn’t fill out the census form. It literally took less than five minutes. If you have a driver’s license and/or a social security card the government knows who you are anyway, don’t they? I doubt they are gonna come microchip you any time soon. Fill out the damned form.

jazmina88's avatar

absolutely….government funding relys on it.

whyigottajoin's avatar

I live in Holland and saw the news about the census and they said not everyone is going to sign it because they believe their information will be forwarded. But they said your data isnt going to be used for other porposses. You should fill out the form, so your country knows how many citizens it has. And the people who are in USA illegaly are scared to fill out the form, and said they’re not going to do it. If normal people who have nothing to fear, dont fill it out too, then there is gonna be a huge miscount I would guess.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

The form I received just asked for names, DOB, ethnicity and whether or not we owned our home outright. It didn’t ask where you were born, income, education or anything like that. As for contact information, you’re probably already out there. Check

dalepetrie's avatar

@PandoraBoxx – unless something changed in the last 20 years, you have to wait 2 more years for the 1940 Census records, because it is 72 years, not 70. How do I know this? I worked for the Census in 1990, and I in fact just took the test to become a Census worker again this year (might as well, I’ve been unemployed for 13½ months and it pays a minimum of 17 bucks an hour in my city).

I can tell anyone who is paranoid about the Census that the very first thing they teach you in training (and you do get 4 days of paid training), is that Census data is private for 72 years, and that this is for ALL purposes…not even other government agencies have the right or ability to access this data. One of the tools you are given is a pad of pages, each of which explain the 72 year confidentiality rule, to hand out to people you visit door to door,

And THAT would be the consequence of your not filling this out and mailing it in….someone is going to get paid anywhere from $10 to $22 an hour, depending on where you live, to come visit your house and ask you questions in person. And if they do what they did in 1990, they will have a short form, which is what you received in the mail, or a long form that is presented to one out of 6 houses, and this will ask you all sorts of demographic information about your income and all manner of other things. It is however voluntary whether or not you give this information.

I was surprised not to see place of birth on the current forms, it seems if anything they’ve streamlined the questions they ask, I recall even the short form being a bit more detailed last time around.

But the fact is this…there is no reason NOT to turn in your Census form, and anyone considering not doing so should consider the following. Every form that is not returned represents a waste of taxpayer dollars in the form of sending a canvaser/enumerator to your house…this person will be given above market pay and mileage, and if they are efficient, they will even earn bonuses. I remember in 1990, I was in my first year of college, minimum wage was $3.85 an hour, and the Census paid me $8.50 an hour plus whatever the mileage rate was for that year, and I was sent between 15 and 50 miles from my house on a near daily basis. I managed to do the work quickly and efficiently and earned I believe something like $125 in bonuses that I was not even expecting. So, a lot of the arguments that it’s a waste of money make it ironic if you decide not to fill your form out, because you are costing the government money by not doing so, plus you are violating the law if you do not comply with the Census.

Second thing to consider is that not only does this data serve to redistrict our Congressional seats, but it also denotes how much government aid is given to various areas for things like education and infrastructure. If you live in a school district that doesn’t have enough money, you are doing a disservice to the kids in that district if you don’t fill out your form and end up not being counted. The more people in a district, the more money they will get, so it’s basically a matter of apportioning economic resources appropriately. If one area counts everyone and another misses 10%, well that’s 10% more that the one area gets than the other. If you’re really concerned about making government work for the people and be fair, you want to strive for an accurate as possible count.

Now there is an alarming and dangerous trend among hardcore right wingers to not fill out this information for privacy reasons, but anyone who knows anything about the Census will know that in 220 years, privacy has never been breached. I mean, just think about how hard it is to get the government to tell you something you want to know via the Freedom of Information act, even if it’s something you’re legally entitled to. Now imagine a bureau whose first purpose is to keep all its data confidential. I don’t care how much tinfoil you wear, that information ain’t going anywhere.

To be completely frank, my biggest concern about the Census is the test they give. I’m not giving away any information that is not publicly available by the way (they make it very clear that you can and WILL be prosecuted if you breach confidentiality as a Census worker), but basically any Joe legally authorized to work in the US can right this very minute call up their city’s Census office and inquire about taking a test. They will tell you the time and location of the next couple tests and have you give your name and phone # to sign up. You go where the test is at the appointed time (and if you want to get in on this, they are doing tests daily until Saturday, after that the ship has sailed). You can print out practice tests with sample questions and study as much as you want, then you sign in at the testing site, fill out a job application and an I-9 (and they will verify your ID on the spot), then you are given 30 minutes to take a 28 question, 4 option multiple choice test which covers basic math, reading, comprehensin and clerical skills. Here’s what alarms me…the test is a joke. I took it on Monday, finished it in 15 minutes and scored 28 out of 28. They ask you to multiply a couple numbers, or put something in alphabetical order, or determine how many houses are to be counted on a block, which basically just requires you to count the houses printed on a map. I remembered thinking that this couldn’t possibly be the real test when I was 18 and took it he first time, and was the first to finish. So, it didn’t surprise me too much when I was the only person to be done writing before the test proctor said to stop this time. In other words, I don’t think there are an abundance of half way intelligent people taking this test. And I also remember when I went to training that these people who also passed the test couldn’t POSSIBLY be the cream of the crop. I remember one guy looked like a serial killer and one woman told me her last job was putting tips on shoelaces.

Anyway, my point is that 10 is a passing score…10 out of 28…on a test of basic math, reading, comprehension and clerical skills. Now 10 doesn’t guarantee you a job (neither does a 28), but it does qualify you for an interview, and hey, if you score 10, and no one else in your area scores more than that, you’re in. So, before you think about not returning that form, realize that even though you could be visited by a nice, college educated but down on his luck professional like myself, you might instead be visited by someone who looks like a serial killer and puts tips on shoelaces for a living, who couldn’t even score 36% on a test of basic skills. Because where else is going to pay someone like that $17 an hour? Hell, I’m hoping that they need supervisors, since I have supervisory skills, they may not even send a guy like me door to door. Bottom line is, you don’t fill out that form, you risk being visited by someone you wouldn’t want driving your kids school bus. That person will try to visit your house again and again until they find you at home. They may try to talk to your neighbors to get information about you, and if you still don’t ever answer, they will try to call you, and will leave you a note that they’d been there and want you to call them. If they can’t reach you, the Census will re-hire the best performers for a second tour of duty (this happened to me in 1990) to try to fill in the gaps. And your tax dollars will be used to pay people who McDonald’s won’t hire, at a wage that normally would require a college degree to obtain.

Basically, there is a good purpose for the Census, it’s completely safe and confidential, it’s easy to complete, they don’t ask anything very personal, and you save yourself a future visit from the next Ted Bundy. Bottom line is, I would not only encourage you to send back your form, but I would also encourage anyone looking for a good source of quick and easy income in this down economy to try to get in on one of the last tests…it’s the easiest test you’ll ever take, and the easiest money you’ll ever make if you get hired. Hell, when I was 18/19 and worked the Census, I basically got paid 3 times what I could have made at any other summer job, I set my own hours and spent most of my day driving and listening to my car stereo.

dalepetrie's avatar

Almost forgot the kicker….if you don’t pass or just aren’t happy with your score, you can call to schedule to retake the test as many times as you want and they’ll use the highest score. And we’re talking about questions like this…

“Census workers should refrain from talking to the people they visit about anything controversial. What does controversial mean?”

Then they give you 4 choices, one of which is “debatable”, while the other 3 options aren’t even close to the meaning of the word. If you can add, subtract, multiply, divide, spell, match, and order things, you’d have to be drunk not to score at least 25.

wundayatta's avatar

@plethora “illegal alien” is a pejorative term that creates an image that the person has no right to exist. You can’t say that. People may be present in this country without proper documentation, but that, on it’s own, doesn’t even mean they are illegally here. People use the term “illegal alien” because they are prejudiced agitators who don’t care about what is really going on.“Illegal alien” is pc for for some people, but “undocumented alien” is the proper term.

dalepetrie's avatar

@wundayatta – not to mention that the main reason we have so many “undocumented” aliens is because that’s the way our government has set up the system. Illegal immigration is actually encouraged actively by our government, enforcement efforts are nothing more than political smoke screens to make people feel like we’re “tough” on illegal immigration. Basically, our government says hey, if you’re from one of the 19 countries where most of our immigrants come from, we already have enough of “your kind”, so there’s no legal way to get in unless you are a) married to a US Citizen before you set foot on US soil, or b) sponsored by a US corporation with an H1-B Visa. If you don’t have a connection, the only way to get here is to come illegally, there is no “line” to get into. Basically the only third way to legally become a US citizen is to FIRST enter the country illegally, then get caught, then petition the deportation court for an adjustment in legal status. Then if you’re lucky and they don’t decide to make an example out of you for good PR, they will naturalize you after you spend 10 years and countless thousands of dollars working the legal system. The government, which is increasingly controlled by big money corporate interest wants there to be a huge number of undocumented aliens, because they represent cheap, expendable labor to the companies that spend the most dollars lobbying our elected leaders. So, you’re absolutely right, the whole idea of an illegal immigrant is simply a term created so that people who were born here will be all gung ho to deport the illegals who have no right to be here because they didn’t wait in the nonexistent line like everybody else, and in this way they can demonize a small group, and provide lip service to a manufactured issue, which will get people elected simply by taking a “hard line stance” on it.

wundayatta's avatar

@dalepetrie And anyone who studies demographics knows that we want the aliens, too. Otherwise, there will be no one to wipe our bums and find our false teeth when we get to be 75.

dalepetrie's avatar

@wundayatta – We don’t have to wait until we’re 75 to need these immigrants….right now most of the food you eat is killed or picked or cooked or served by immigrants, because an American sees an $8 an hour job with no benefits flipping burgers as beneath him, and not enough to pay the bills. An immigrant sees $8 an hour and says to himself, I can’t even make $8 a day back home. So they make due, they rent a $200 a month apartment in a part of town most white people won’t even set foot in and cohabitate with the cockroaches and 14 of their family members. Then they work like 100 hours a week, leaving them just enough free time to eat and sleep, so they have no entertainment expenses. That way they can send the money back to their families back home (the ones who didn’t also cross the border) so they too can “enjoy” life. People like to demonize illegal immigrants but I’d like to see these people try to live your typical undocumented alien’s life for one week, I think they’d quickly realize how bad things must be in their homeland for them to risk their lives and spend their life savings to come to a country that pays them slave wages, works them to death and then makes the citizens hostile to their very existence.

wundayatta's avatar

That all may be true @dalepetrie, but it’s not an argument that would persuade any selfish or racist person. If people see it is in their own interest to welcome immigrants, maybe they would sing a different tune. Right now, I don’t believe they understand the consequences of their beliefs.

dcgirl's avatar

Yea…fill it out so you are sure to recieve one of these

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