For much of the nation’s history, America counted its population every 10 years in person, with a census taker knocking on doors and asking residents questions like how many people lived there, what were their names and how old were they.
Recent counts have been conducted primarily by surveys that were sent to each home, with census takers dispatched to get the information from households that didn’t mail in their survey.
Next year, the Census Bureau is adding a new twist. People will be able to fill out their surveys online, or call a number and give the answers to a bureau office, skipping the paper and the trip to the mailbox.
It’s part of a massive effort to get the most complete count possible that will also include a massive marketing effort that kicks off Jan. 1, three months before “Census Day” on April 1, said Licett Figueroa, regional coordinator for Eastern and central Washington.
The bureau also is organizing Complete Count Committees in cities and counties around the nation, providing materials to schools that explain to students the importance of filling out the survey and working with nonprofits that have ties to groups traditionally underreported, such as low-income and immigrant communities.
The surveys will be sent out in March and can be sent in or answered online before April 1, with 10 or 11 questions:
How many people will be living or staying at that address on April 1?
Is the home owned or rented?
A phone number, in case the bureau needs to contact the resident.
The names of everyone in the house.
The sex of everyone in the house.
Ages and dates of birth of everyone.
Whether anyone is of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin.
The race of everyone listed.
Whether anyone lives or stays somewhere else most of the time.
The relationship of each person in the household to the person filling it out.
Those 10 questions are definite. But an 11th one, whether each person is a citizen or a noncitizen, has been proposed but has been challenged and is before the U.S. Supreme Court. The bureau has printed two sets of surveys, one with the citizenship question and one without, Figueroa said.
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