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Why They Ask What They Ask
One in six households received a longer census form, which asks questions that some people find invasive. The Census Bureau argues that the data collected from these forms is vital to the federal government and local communities. Here's a look at four of the long form questions and examples of how the bureau says this information is used.
Questions On Federal Uses Local Impact
Regarding wages and any other forms of income, including through public assistance programs.
• Provides a measure of general economic health.

• Used to determine poverty status.

• Used to assess the need for various types of public assistance.

• Identifies local areas eligible for grants for job training and other employment programs.

• Guides funding for social services distributed to local agencies.

Mortgage costs
Regarding mortgage costs, taxes and other expenses covered (fire, hazard and flood insurance), and amount of monthly payments.
• Used by the Department of Health and Human Services to assess housing assistance for elderly, disabled and low-income homeowners.

• Needed by Department of Energy to help study energy supply and use.

• Needed to evaluate an area's qualification for federal housing assistance.

• Used as one of the selection criteria for local urban development grants.

Plumbing Facilities
Regarding plumbing facilities, including hot and cold piped water, flush toilets and a bathtub or shower.

• Needed by federal agencies to identify areas eligible for public assistance programs.

• Used by public health officials to locate areas in danger of ground water contamination, waterborne diseases.

• Used to allocate Section 8 and other federal housing subsidies to local governments.

• Used by state and local agencies to identify poor-quality housing.

Regarding long-lasting conditions such as blindness or a hearing impairment; difficulties with routine activities such as dressing or bathing; memory loss.
• Used to distribute funds and develop programs for people with disabilities and the elderly.

• Needed under the Americans With Disabilities Act to ensure comparable public transportation services.

• Required under Housing and Urban Development Act to distribute funds for people with disabilities.

• Used by state and county agencies to determine eligible recipients under Medicare and Medicaid programs.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, Bureau of Census

© 2000 The Washington Post Company

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