Census Bureau is ready to start its U.S. head count

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By Hope Yen
Tuesday, December 15, 2009

With preparations for next year's count nearly complete, the head of the Census Bureau said he's growing more hopeful that the government can achieve a strong response rate, similar to what was seen in 2000.

In a news briefing, Robert Groves said the bureau recently finished compiling its master address list used to send out forms. He said an independent estimate shows that the list is more accurate than in the last census.

Challenges facing the Census Bureau next year include locating residents who have lost their homes to foreclosures and finding immigrants wary of government workers amid a crackdown on illegal immigration. Groves said he was hopeful of a good response because of strong outreach emphasizing that the information would be kept confidential. The form next year also will be the "shortest census in our lifetime," he said -- estimated to take just 10 minutes to complete.

Groves said the bureau will launch a $300 million advertising campaign next month and begin its head count in parts of rural Alaska.

"The plan has been set. Operations have been assembled," Groves said. "It is a time for all of us, especially social, political and religious leaders around the country, to get the word out that everyone needs to participate -- that it is easy to do, and it's especially safe."

The population figures, gathered every 10 years, are used to apportion House of Representative seats and distribute nearly $450 billion in federal aid.

In 2000, the Census Bureau noted for the first time an overcount of 1.3 million people, mostly because of duplicate counts of more affluent whites with multiple residences.

About 4.5 million people were ultimately missed, mostly blacks and Hispanics.

-- Associated Press

© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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