Can you count to 300 million? The U.S. Census Bureau believes that's about how many people live in the United States today. But the Census Bureau will need everyone's help to make sure its estimate is correct. On Monday, the bureau began its $300 million effort to get people to fill out and send back their census forms. The forms are mailed every 10 years and are used to count the number of people living in the country.
On January 4, Census Director Robert Groves kicked off the nationwide campaign with an event in New York City. He unveiled a 46-foot trailer called "Mail It Back." In all, 13 similar vehicles will travel to about 800 events around the country, including state fairs, the Super Bowl in Miami, Florida, and the Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco, California. "The whole purpose is to reach out to people at local events," Groves said.
The Census Bureau will mail out the 10-question forms in March to about 130 million addresses in the United States and Puerto Rico. The forms are expected to reach mailboxes between March 15 and 17. A stamped envelope is included so that people can easily mail the forms back to the Census Bureau. If people forget to mail back the forms, census takers will visit them at their homes starting in early May.
It's in the Constitution
The U.S. Constitution says that the census must be taken every 10 years. The first national count took place in 1790. At that time, there were only 13 states. The entire U.S. population was about 4 million. Today, there are 4 million people in the city of Los Angeles, California, alone.
The census plays an important part in how our country works. The numbers are used to figure out how many representatives each state gets in Congress. Congress also uses the count to figure out how to divide government money fairly. The money is used to pay for public schools, hospitals, bridges and other projects. "There's political power involved because of the Constitution," Groves said. "There's money involved as well."
Something to Be Proud Of
The 10-question form is one of the shortest in the history of the census. Residents will be asked the number of people living in each household as well as their age, race and whether they own their home or rent.
This time, the Census Bureau is paying special attention to communities that have been undercounted in the past. About 13 million forms in both English and Spanish will be sent to areas where many people speak Spanish. There are also forms in Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and Russian.
"I don't think you can ever do enough," Groves said. "What we are doing, I think, is something to be proud of."