J. Michael Smith, Esq.

Michael P. Farris, Esq.

U.S. Census 2010 Update

February 26, 2010

Americans from coast to coast will start receiving the U.S. Census mailings for the next census in March of 2010. You may have questions about your rights in regards to the upcoming questionnaires. How can you protect the integrity and confidentiality of your homeschool while responding to the U.S. Census? In this report, we attempt to provide answers to frequently asked questions about the census.

What are the U.S. Census Questions?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 2010 Census will be a little different from in the past. Everyone will receive a short form that will have to be filled out by April 1, 2010. It is very basic, with 10 questions for each member of the household (access an interactive electronic version here):

1) How many people are living/staying in the household.
2) If there were any people staying in the house not mentioned in response to question 1.
3) Whether or not the homeowners/leasers have mortgages or pay rent.
4) The household’s telephone number.
5) Information about each person living in the household.
6) Gender of the head of the household.
7) Date of birth of the head of the household.
8) Whether or not the head of the household has Hispanic origin.
9) The head of the household’s race.
10) Whether or not the head of the household sometimes lives elsewhere.

This is different from the last census, which sent out two types of forms, the short 7-question form, and a long 53-question form. The long form was converted into the American Community Surveys that are sent out to small numbers of people throughout the 10-year period between each Census. Read our issue paper for more information on the American Community Survey.

Do I Have to Fill out the Whole Form?

The most frequent question we receive from member families is, “Am I required by law to answer the census form?”

The U.S. Census is mandatory by federal law. There is clear federal warning in the code about refusing to give the required information to the Census Bureau. U.S. Code, Title 13 states that citizens must comply with the census or face a $100 fine. There is a $500 penalty for giving false information.

Are the Census Questions Constitutional?

Article I, Section 2(3) of the U.S. Constitution is the provision that authorizes a census. “The actual enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such a manner as they shall by law direct.”

The last phrase, “in such a manner as they shall by law direct,” gives Congress broad authority to determine the scope and process for collecting the census. Congress used this authority to define the parameters of the census in Title 13 of the U.S. Code.

Will There be any Questions about Homeschooling?

Not in the 2010 census.

Will a Census Worker Come to My Door? Do I Have to Let Him Inside?

There is a pre-listing and listing operation underway to make sure that addresses are correct, especially in new neighborhoods. This means that there will be certain instances where you will see census workers in the field. However, census workers are not typically going to go door to door. There is simply not enough time or money to do this. The only reason a census worker will come to your door is if you have not returned your form or if you have a new address. They are not authorized to enter your home or collect information that is not required by law. HSLDA will protect our member families against any attempt to collect homeschool information.

If you would like to read the HSLDA position paper on the U.S. Census and our recommendations to homeschoolers, please visit the Census Issue Center on our web site. HSLDA recommends that you also contact the U.S. Census Customer Services Call Center at 1-800-923-8282 for more information.

 Other Resources

U.S. Census Bureau

American Community Survey