My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

MyTwoCensus Exclusive Part 3: Identity Theft, Scams, and the Census Bureau

3 million Americans are set to receive bonuses this year as they are being asked to turn in  a 301-question form to the Census Bureau, called the American Community Survey (click here to download this 76-page monstrosity), instead of the typical “it-takes-less-than-ten-minutes-to-complete survey” that the other 300 million Americans out there will take. The American Community Survey is a replacement for “the long form,” which, from 1930-2000 was a lengthy survey sent to one in every six households that asked questions about everything from property taxes and indoor plumbing to education, ancestry and commuting patterns. But don’t think that everyone who received this new American Community Survey in the mail isn’t suspicious of its legitimacy, especially in this era of identity theft. Here’s the report from the Treasure Coast Palm newspaper:

— Vero Beach resident Robert Di Santi got a packet in the mail from the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau.

He was a little concerned about the invasiveness of some of the 301 questions, touching on topics from marriage to income. And he wondered if the material was actually from the government because the census is normally conducted once a decade.

“I requested information from Sen. Martinez and Rep. Posey about the propriety of this request,” said Di Santi, who thought it might be a scam.

In this era of identity theft, Census officials said Di Santi, and others who have received the packet, shouldn’t worry.

The Vero Beach resident’s home was one of about 7,000 Treasure Coast residences that will receive the packet this year. The Census annually sends out 3 million of its American Community Surveys to randomly selected residential addresses nationwide this decade. About 1-in-40 homes are selected to complete the mandatory survey. Failure to complete the survey could result in a $100 to $5,000 fine.

The questionnaire is a new method of conducting the long form of the census, now called the American Community Survey, that had been part of the once-a-decade roundup of facts about Americans.

In the 2000 survey, one in six residences received a long form. In the 2010 census, conducted April 1, everyone will receive what had been called the short form.

The downside of only doing the long form once every 10 years is the data gets out of date pretty quickly, said Shelly Lowe, Census Bureau public information officer. Since various programs rely upon set formulas for allocations of money and grants, it was decided to switch the long form to the annual survey.

“As part of the census, (American Community Surveys) data help determine how over $300 billion in federal tax dollars are distributed back to state and local areas,” Lowe said. “That’s why it’s important to fill it out and send it back if you receive it.”

The survey questions are similar to what was in the long form, but by being done annually, the survey provides a moving picture of the changes across the American landscape, Lowe said. The representative sample taken by the survey is also used to determine how federal dollars are distributed.

The Census Bureau will send a letter telling residents they have been selected for the survey. If a household selected for the survey doesn’t respond, a census employee will call or visit the address to conduct the survey.

How the American Community Survey data is used

Ethic origin: Used by the Public Health Service Act to identify segments of the population that might not be getting adequate medical services.

Marital status: Used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to determine areas eligible for Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

Grandparents as primary caregivers: Used by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to administer the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program.

English language ability: Used to assist with voting per the Voting Rights Act.

Educational attainment: Used to distribute money to school districts for adult education.

Residence one year ago: Used by federal programs concerned with employment, housing, education and the elderly.

Commute to work: Used as the basis for state and metropolitan planning transit planning.

Plumbing and kitchen facilities: Used by federal programs that distribute housing grants to state and local areas.

Tags: , , , ,

4 Responses to “MyTwoCensus Exclusive Part 3: Identity Theft, Scams, and the Census Bureau”

  1. My Two Census » Blog Archive » MyTwoCensus Exclusive Part 3 … | Blocking Identity Theft Says:

    [...] Go here to read the rest:  My Two Census » Blog Archive » MyTwoCensus Exclusive Part 3 … [...]

  2. My Two Census » Blog Archive » Penalties from the Census Bureau: Are they ever enforced? Says:

    [...] like it or not, every person in America is required by law to complete their census form (or their American  Community Survey if they are part of the 1 in 40 households destined for a more thorough demographic [...]

  3. Jim Says:

    why is it the census bureau’s problem that people think the ACS is not legitimate? why would you frame this with the statement: ‘But don’t think that everyone who received this new American Community Survey in the mail isn’t suspicious of its legitimacy, especially in this era of identity theft’? Isn’t this more a comment on people’s general paranoia than any sort of ‘watchdogging’ of the census process?

    I really don’t understand what you’re trying to get at here. Please enumerate the threat posed by the ACS, or stop trying to scare/incite people.

  4. jeanette Says:

    Jim, would you really answer every question with no concerns or reservations on the American Community? I’m by nature usually a trusting person, but sorry to say the Census Bureau has abused private information in the past -
    American born, law abiding citizens were removed from their homes and possessions, and put into internment camps in 1942. (So don’t forget to answer those many, detailed questions about your ancestry, and ethnic roots). Their census information freely given allowed this to happen.
    Not only that, but they have mislaid computers, and other handheld info containing devices, and accidentally posted private census info on the net.
    Also, the very tactics that are being used by the ACS would make one want to question the nature of it, if nothing else. Abuse of the Constitutional individual rights, threats, harassing, extreme rudeness.
    Of course, this is costing taxpayers plenty.
    Why am I so suspicious at this time? My husband and I (both in our late 70′s) are being harrassed, and threatened by the census bureau for our reluctance to fill out this ridiculous inquisition.
    We’ve just received the normal, 10 question census form, and will promptly comply with that. That should give them all the information needed, without their delving into our bathroom habits, and personal matters. Do you really know where all this info goes?
    A person who never questions their government is paving the way for tyranny.