DorobekINSIDER explainer: That Census letter announcing the Census form is coming

Wednesday - 3/10/2010, 2:00am EST

There has been a lot of commentary and buzz about the Census sending out a letter notifying people that you will soon be receiving the Census form. And many people have scoffed calling it a colossal waste of money — or worse. To be fair — I said the same thing.

Here is the text of the letter:

Dear Resident:

About one week from now, you will receive a 2010 Census form in the mail. When you receive your form, please fill it out and mail it in promptly. Your response is important. Results from the 2010 Census will be used to help each community get its fair share of government funds for highways, schools, health facilities, and many other programs you and your neighbors need. Without a complete, accurate census, your community may not receive its fair share. Thank you in advance for your help.

Sincerely, Robert M. Groves
Director, U.S. Census Bureau

Go to <2010census.gov> for help completing your 2010 Census form when it arrives. [Note: this sentence is repeated in Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Russian]

So I called Census officials to ask the question: Why send out a letter saying that the Census is coming?

The answer: To raise awareness.

Census surveys show that 45 percent of people don’t know about the Census — a number I find shocking, but… And further Census surveys show that these letters increase awareness of the Census. That increased awareness increases the Census form return rate by 6 to 12 percent. That increase has a real return on investment — every 1 percent increase in Census returns saves the government $85 million in operational costs associated with census takers going door to door to follow up with households that did not mail back the form. It costs $57 per household on average to send a Census enumerator out to get the data.

These letters went out to 120 million addresses, Census officials said.

That being said, I wish they had included a link where I could fill out my Census form online, but…

More information can be found here.