The 2010 Census Aims to Count Every Single (and Married) American

CensusCensus 2010 is now in full swing, as you probably have heard or seen—ads are everywhere you look. Having mailed out some 120 million questionnaires to residences across the United States, the Census Bureau is now spending about $340 million on a national advertising campaign in 28 languages. Counting a population of more than 300 million is a daunting task. Census 2010, which will cost taxpayers about $14.7 billion, has been billed as the largest peacetime mobilization in American history.

The primary use of census data is to determine through population counts the number of seats each state will occupy in the U.S. House of Representatives. This process is mandated in the U.S. Constitution—and your participation is mandatory! The federal government uses population-driven formulas to allocate $450 billion annually to state, local, and tribal governments. These funds go to hospitals, job training centers, schools, senior centers, emergency services, and infrastructure such as bridges, tunnels, highways, and public works projects.

It is widely acknowledged that the census inevitably fails to count some American residents; however, the Census Bureau makes a diligent effort to count everyone. In 2000, according to its own estimates, 4.5 million people (mostly blacks and Hispanics) were missed, while some wealthy individuals who owned multiple residences were counted more than once. Some people, such as illegal immigrants who fear deportation or legal immigrants who come from countries where governments frequently use information against their citizens, hesitate to participate in the census. Others, like students, persons in prison, and those living overseas, are often difficult to count.

Related Links

  • United States Census 2010: “We Can’t Move Forward Until You Mail It Back”
    The Census Bureau’s official Web site; includes links to videos on “Why the Census Matters,” assistance in 59 languages, and a blog by Census director Robert Groves.
    (Source:; accessed March 31, 2010)
  • Counting America
    This article discusses the basic purposes of the census as well as the controversies that arise around it; includes a pie graph comparison showing 1980 and (projected) 2010 racial demographics in the United States.
    (Source: New York Times Upfront, March 1, 2010)
  • Census 2010 Plagued by Technical Difficulties
    This article discusses some of the technical problems that census takers experienced as they launched the massive headcount involving more than 300 million Americans.
    (Source: Fox News, March 18, 2010)

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