Monday, January 11, 2010

The 2010 Census: Short Forms for Everybody, and Gay Couples Will be Counted

I had not realized this before, but apparently the Census Bureau's long form is no more. The 2000 Census was its' final hurrah.

One of the most significant changes in modern census history will occur in 2010 ― for the first time since 1930, all addresses in the U.S. will receive a census short form.
In recent censuses, most addresses received one of two forms: either the short form, which focused on the population count and demographics; or the long form, which included additional questions on socioeconomic and housing characteristics. Nationwide, about one-in-six addresses in 2000 received the long form. Together, the two parts of the decennial census showed not only the number of people living in America but also the way we live: education, housing, jobs and more. This information will still be part of the decennial census, but it will be collected on a continuing basis as part of the American Community Survey.

The American Community Survey is sent out to some number of households every few months; this allows the government to have a more up-to-date estimate of important demographic/social/economic/etc. issues, as a lot changes in 10 years.

Instead, the head of each household this year must answer only 10 questions, plus an additional 7 questions for each other household member. The form can be viewed here.

The questions include the following:

  1. For the head only Number of residents in the place of residence
  2. For the head only Whether any additional people were staying in the place of residence on April 1, 2010 that were not counted in question 1.
  3. For the head only Ownership status of residence-owned with mortgage; owned and fully paid off; returned; occupied without paying (squatting)
  4. For the head only Telephone Number-so they can contact you if an answer cannot be understood
  5. I wonder how many people will get confused, since these days pretty much every other form these days specifies specific types of phone numbers (cell, work, home)
  6. For everyone Last Name (15 characters; a poor decision on the Census Bureau's part. They really could've minimally redrawn the form to allow for last name to be on its own line and have a limit of as much as 21 characters. However, thankfully, the 15 character limit just fits my own last name), First Name (13 characters, which is also perhaps a poor decision, but perhaps not) and Middle Initial
  7. For everyone EXCEPT for the head of household How this person is related to the head of household; categories include:
    • Husband or wife
    • Biological son or daughter
    • Adopted son or daughter
    • Stepson or stepdaughter
    • Brother or sister
    • Father or mother
    • Grandchild
    • Parent-in-law
    • Son-in-law or daughter-in-law
    • Other Relative I suppose this was in the interest of space as they felt other things would be uncommon enough
    • Roomer or boarder (i.e. someone who pays rent to you)
    • Housemate or roommate (i.e. equal to you)
    • Unmarried partner (for all those Americans living in sin today)
    • Other non-relative I guess a catch-all for those who don't like the other categories
  8. For Everyone What is this person's sex? Male, female only, though I suppose that technically doesn't affect transgendered people since they still answer one or the other
  9. For Everyone Age, as well as month, day and year of birth
  10. For Everyone Hispanic, Latino, Spanish origin; this is still not considered to be a race. The three "popular" subsets of origins are still Mexican/Mexican Am./Chicano, Puerto Rican, and Cuban; all other Hispanic,Latino, Spanish origins must write in their specific origin by hand
  11. For Everyone Race: White, black, American Indian Alaska Native (with tribe as a write-in), a bunch of different Asian country origins, and some other race
  12. For everyone Whether or not they sometimes live or stay somewhere else

There are several interesting things about the Census form.

There is obviously the whole Negro controversy on the Census form; it says "Black, African Am., or Negro"

The interesting thing about the 'related' form is that it does allow the government to track same-sex couples (if the person checking husband or wife or unmarried partner is the same gender as the head of household) in a way that doesn't "offend" conservatives. After all, it would be far more convoluted and nasty to have to design the form in a way that would prevent such information from being collected. It could be done, I suppose, but it would be pretty terribly convoluted and probably mess up Census data.

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