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Ten things you should know about Census 2010

Census 2010 has only 10 questions, which should take about 10 minutes to fill out. Find out more about the census form headed your way.

By Husna HaqCorrespondent / March 15, 2010

Census 2010: U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves leaves the home of village elder Clifton Jackson, 89, in the remote Inupiat Eskimo village Noorvik, Alaska.

Carolyn Kaster/AP/FILE


One of the biggest and oldest surveys in America will hit mailboxes this week, and its results will inform countless decisions, from how federal funds are divvied up to how advertisers analyze their target audiences.

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It’s available in six languages, and anyone who doesn’t participate may be slapped with a fine, per federal law.

Say hello to Census 2010.

Every 10 years, the government sends out its questionnaire to track US population and determine how to apportion seats in the House of Representatives.

This year, the government lined up a savvy $130 million campaign – complete with Super Bowl and Winter Olympics ads, a census-sponsored NASCAR race car, and a nationwide road tour – to encourage people to mail back their census forms. If every household mails back its form (more than 120 million have been mailed out), the government could save $1.5 billion in follow-up visits.

To save the government – and yourself – some dough, read on for more tips and trivia about the 2010 Census.

10 questions in 10 minutes. One of the shortest census questionnaires in history, the 2010 Census has only 10 questions, which should take 10 minutes to fill out, according to the Census Bureau. Among the questions asked: whether a resident owns or rents, as well as information about each household member, including name, sex, age, race, and relationship to the person filling out the form.

To include or not to include? The census asks how many people live or sleep in a given household as of April 1. Respondents should include babies born on or before April 1, 2010, as well as non-US citizens. College students who live away from home and military personnel should not be counted on household surveys. Divorced parents who share custody of a child should indicate where a child usually lives. Residents who need help filling out the form can do so at a questionnaire assistance center. Locations are available online.

$400 billion and 435 seats in the US House of Representative. Census data determine how more than $400 billion in federal money is distributed, for everything from roads and schools to healthcare and child-care centers. It also determines how many lawmakers each state will have in the US House of Representatives.

It’s in the Constitution. Article I, Section 2, to be exact. It specifies that congressional seats will be distributed proportionately among states on the basis of a census to be conducted every 10 years. Federal law penalizes those who don’t fill out a form ($100 fine) or who provide false information ($500 fine).

Americans have been counted since 1790. The 2010 Census is the 23rd head count in US history. The first was conducted on Monday, Aug. 2, 1790. Population? 3.9 million. This year’s official Census Day is April 1. Expected population? 309 million.