Thursday, March 18, 2010


Follow up: Census

I got my census form yesterday, and filled it out. Easy-peasy, of course. Well, what could be hard? It’s only ten questions, and none of them involve complex calculations or in-depth knowledge. Here are the ten:

  1. How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment, or mobile home on April 1, 2010?
  2. Were there any additional people staying here April 1, 2010 that you did not include in Question 1?
  3. Is this house, apartment, or mobile home — [owned with a mortgage, owned outright, rented, occupied without payment] ?
  4. What is your telephone number?

    For each person living here:

  5. What is the person’s name?
  6. What is the person’s sex?
  7. What is the person’s age (on April 1) and date of birth?
  8. Is the person of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?
  9. What is the person’s race?
  10. Does the person sometimes live or stay somewhere else? [college housing, military, seasonal residence, child custody, jail or prison, nursing home...]

I find the questions about race and ethnic origin to be especially interesting. I don’t know why they need to separate Spanish origin from any other racial or ethnic identity, nor why they need to identify which country your Spanish origin comes from (the choices for question 8 are Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and other (which you write in)). The choices for race in question 9 include the obvious sorts of things (white, black, American Indian (specify tribe)), but then break down “Asian” specifically (Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and other (specify)). They do the same for Pacific islanders (Hawaiian, Guamanian, Samoan, other (specify)).

Why should they care that someone’s Asian background is Japanese, as opposed to Korean, but not care that my European background, say, is Romanian and Polish, and not German or Czech? It seems odd.

Still, regardless of the curiosities, filling out the form could hardly be more straightforward. Which is why a segment of today’s Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC radio struck me as silly:

Census: The 10 Questions

Assistant Regional Census Manager Allison Cenac walks listeners through the 2010 Census form, question by question.

And, yet, on the show’s web page, there are quite a number of questions about it. I guess “straightforward” is a relative thing, and there are always edge cases.

But I like the woman who asks, in question 11, if he’ll also walk us through our tax forms. Now there is something that’s not at all straightforward for a good many of us.

Ooh! The time is getting nigh. I’d better get on that....

1 comment:

The Ridger, FCD said...

That's interesting, as on the Census Bureau's website they most definitely break European ancestry down in as much detail - Welsh or Maltese, for example.