The U.S. Constitution requires a census every 10 years to determine how many seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives. But community leaders use the census for everything from planning schools and building roads to providing recreational opportunities and managing health-care services.
How Big Is the Census?
What's on the Census Form?
The short form asks seven questions: name, sex, age, relationship, Hispanic origin, race, and housing tenure (whether the home is owned or rented)—and takes approximately 10 minutes to complete. About 83% of households receive the short form.
The long form covers about 34 subjects, including education, ancestry, employment, disability, and home heating fuel. Only 1 in 6 households receives the long form, which takes about 38 minutes to complete.
Answering the Census Is Important
Taking part in the census is in everyone's best interest. People who answer the census help their communities obtain federal funding and valuable information for planning hospitals, roads, and more. Census information helps decision-makers understand which neghborhoods need new schools and which ones need greater services for the elderly.
Answering the census creates jobs and ensures the delivery of goods and services. Businesses use census numbers to locate supermarkets and shopping centers, new housing, new factories and offices, and facilities like movie theaters and restaurants.
The Law Protects Your Answers
By law, the Census Bureau cannot share your answers with the IRS, FBI, Welfare, Immigration—or any other government agency. No court of law, not even the president of the United States, can find out your answers. And the same law that keeps your answers out of these agencies prevents the Census Bureau from selling or giving away your address to people who want to send you mail.
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