The 2010 Census: How It's Done and Why It Matters

Publication Date: 
Sunday, October 18, 2009

Where do you live? For many people this seemingly simple question doesn’t have a simple answer. Some retirees spend winters in Florida or Arizona and summers in New York or Minnesota. Others buy an RV and move from place to place, with no fixed place of residence. College students spend part of the year in their college towns and part in their home towns. Migrant farm workers often move from place to place over the course of a year, spending no more than a few weeks or months at any given location. Children of divorced parents may shift between the mother’s home and the father’s home on a monthly, weekly, or even a daily basis. Where do these people live? This is just one of the issues the U.S. Census Bureau will have to deal with in the upcoming 2010 Census. The importance of the census cannot be overstated. It is the most comprehensive source of demographic data in the United States and tells us much of what we know about our nation’s population and how it is changing over time. This paper describes a bit of the history of census-taking in the United States, provides an overview of how the census is conducted, and discusses some of the hotbutton issues surrounding the decennial 2010 census of population and housing.

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