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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.

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Who’s filling it out – and who isn’t. The Census Bureau predicts that two-thirds of US households will fill out and mail back the 2010 Census. Among those least likely to return forms are illegal immigrants, Hispanics, young adults, city dwellers, and residents displaced by foreclosures. Homeless people may not be left out, however: Census takers will canvass city streets in an attempt to include them.

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Which states get the most federal dollars? Rural areas and places with a large poor population tend to benefit most from an accurate census because the largest state program that relies on federal census statistics is Medicaid, the government healthcare program for low-income individuals. According to an analysis by the Brookings Institution, the places that received the most census-based federal dollars per capita were the District of Columbia, Vermont, Alaska, New York, and Massachusetts.

Which states might get cheated? In 2000, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, and North Carolina each had below-average mail participation rates. Since then, they’ve also seen higher rates of foreclosures and rapid growth of Hispanics and blacks – groups that are less likely to return their forms. If responses are low this year, these states could be cheated of federal dollars and congressional seats. If not, they stand to gain at least one House seat each.

Census 2010 by the numbers: 360 million, 29 miles, 11.6 million pounds. That is the total number of questionnaires printed (360 million), how high they would stand stacked in a pile (29 miles high – more than five times higher than Mt. Everest), and the collective weight of the paper that the questionnaires were printed on (11.6 million pounds). If stretched end to end, the questionnaires would circle the globe three times.

$0.42 versus $56. This is how much it costs the government if residents mail back their census form (42 cents each), compared with the estimated cost of obtaining a household’s census response in person if a household fails to mail back the form.