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It’s that time of decade again…

By Brian | March 17, 2010 | Share on Facebook

That’s right, boys & girls – it’s CENSUS time! I’ve seen all the ads telling me how important it is that I fill out the census, but I didn’t know this until I got the envelope:

Required by law? Really? I wonder what the penalty is. And given that the letter is addressed to “Resident,” I wonder how they find me if I don’t fill it out. I mean, isn’t identifying me and the members of my household the whole point? If they show up to arrest me, haven’t they conclusively proven that they don’t need me to fill it out?

You heard it here first, folks – We need Census Law Reform!

Topics: Random Acts of Blogging | 5 Comments »

5 Responses to “It’s that time of decade again…”

  1. Janet says at March 17th, 2010 at 8:03 am :
    They don’t need you to fill it out; if you don’t, they’ll send people to your address and try to fill it out with you, and if that doesn’t work, to fill it out without you. But that costs a lot more money. A lot. So, as a good fiscal conservative, don’t make the government spend money on something that you can do pretty easily instead. Be thankful you’ve got the short form (and you do, because they got rid of the long form after 2000) and fill it out and send it back if for no other reason than keeping costs down.

    And yes, required by law. The census is how our government, for quite some time now, has interpreted what it is required to do in a little document called the constitution.

    And I know you’re being facetious, but there have been HUGE political arguments in DC over how to run the census – right there, that should show you it really does matter, with so many different groups so deeply vested in the outcome.

  2. Jeff Porten says at March 17th, 2010 at 6:25 pm :
    IIRC, the “required by law” bit is classified similarly to jury duty. Most people who blow it off do so without consequence, but there *could* be penalties, and how much will vary based on how the case reaches a judge.

    I returned my form in 2000 but was still selected to be interviewed in person. The census taker was carrying a Newton — and this was several years after the Newton’s heyday. I wonder what they’re using this year.

  3. Brian says at March 17th, 2010 at 8:23 pm :
    @Janet – don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely filling it out. In fact, I’m looking forward to filling it out with my kids. The next time a census comes around, one will be in college and the other will be a high school junior (and they likely won’t care all that much). Nothing like receiving a ready-to-implement civics lesson in the mail.

    As for “required by law,” I was being facetious. Kidding aside, I know that the government is required by law to conduct a census and that the census affects things like voting districts, number of House seats per state, etc. (hence the DC squabbling over how it’s done), but I didn’t know that citizens were required to fill it out. I’m a bit surprised we don’t have the right to remain uncounted if we so choose…

    @Jeff – according to the never-wrong Wikipedia, the last Newton model (the MessagePad 2100) was discontinued in February of 1998. So yeah – wow – these guys weren’t exactly bleeding edge. If Apple still has the government contract, though, they could (should?) give them all iPads this time around…

  4. Janet says at March 17th, 2010 at 9:25 pm :
    Ours came today and I just did it this afternoon. It asks just about nothing. In 2000 we got the long form and it took FOREVER – all sorts of questions about how much I spend on utilities and how many hours I work each week and what languages are spoken in the home. This was names, relationships, DOBs, sex, race, ethnicity. That’s it. Not much of a civics lesson, I think. Though you could make something of deciding whether you or Sherry should be “person #1″ – it just has to be an adult. You’ll finish yours 20% faster than I did mine because you only have four people and I have five.
    The Census Bureau is now vesting less in the decennial census, which is now mostly about congressional districts, and more in other kinds of surveys that they can tailor to the kind of data they are after. There’s one survey, for example, on crime that is connected (like the decennial, I guess) to your address. When we bought this house five years ago, we inherited its participation in this census survey. Every six months for a few years they would call and ask me about whether I’d been victim of or witness to any crimes at home, work, etc. The best I could come up with was that one Halloween we weren’t sure if a jack-o-lantern got vandalized or if it was just the deer.
    If they follow a traditional path, I’ll have two kids in college and one GRADUATED when the next census rolls around. Wow. Jeff complaining that his Masters could drive didn’t make me feel old, but that sort of does . . . I’m having a hard enough time with the idea that he’s starting high school in the fall!

  5. Brian says at March 18th, 2010 at 5:02 pm :
    Thanks, Janet. As I said, I haven’t opened it yet – I’m waiting for the weekend so I can do it with the kids.

    As for the civics lesson, it’s more about why we got the form and why we have to fill it out – not so much what they want to know about us. I think the kids will find that part fascinating…

    Maybe we’ll let them fill in the info on Person #3 and Person #4. (supervised, of course…)

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