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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the 2010 Census?
What is the American Community Survey and why are they conducting it?
What do I do if I received a 2010 Census questionnaire and an American Community Survey questionnaire?
Do I have to answer the ACS questions?
Why do they ask such detailed questions?

What are census tracts, blocks and block groups?

How do they define race?
Why do they have one question on race and another on Hispanic origin?

What type of data does the U.S. Census Bureau produce on commuting, journey to work, and place of work?

I am unfamiliar with some terms on this site. Is there a glossary available?

Are there other lists of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)?

What is the 2010 Census?

The census is an official count of the population of the United States. The U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 2) requires that a census be done every 10 years to apportion the seats in the U. S. House of Representatives among the states. The Census Bureau is legally required to provide redistricting data to public officials in a non-partisan manner no later than one year from Census Day. (For example, 2010 Census redistricting data are due by April 1, 2011.) It is crucial that the 2010 Census count people once, only once, and in the right place.The 2010 Census helps ensure that your community receives its fair share of political representation and government funding.

What is the American Community Survey and why are they conducting it?

The American Community Survey is part of the Decennial Census Program. While the ten-year census shows the number of people who live in the U.S., the American Community Survey shows how people live – our education, housing, jobs and more. The American Community Survey asks essentially the same questions that used to be on the long form of the ten-year census, only now it’s conducted throughout the year and throughout the decade. It allows the Census Bureau to produce new data every year, instead of only once every ten years. So, if the old “long form” was like a once-a-decade snapshot of an area — one that grew increasingly faded with age — the American Community Survey is like a moving picture — one that allows a year-by-year look at how the area is changing.

What do I do if I received a 2010 Census questionnaire and an American Community Survey questionnaire?

If you received a 2010 Census questionnaire and an American Community Survey questionnaire you are required by law to complete and return both questionnaires to the Census Bureau. The American Community Survey replaced the decennial census long form and asks for different information than the 2010 Census short-form questionnaire. Your participation in both is vital to ensure that your community receives its fair share of political representation and government funding.

Do I have to answer the ACS questions?

Yes. Response to this survey is required by law (Section 221 of Title 13 ).

Why do they ask such detailed questions?

The ACS questionnaire asks very detailed questions because we are required to collect specific information for federal and state government programs. For example, long-term care providers and community planners use information about disability to help them decide where to locate services and facilities. Federal and state government transportation planning agencies use journey-to-work information for roads and public transit development. You can find Fact Sheets on the ACS Web site that explain why we ask these questions.

What are census tracts, blocks and block groups?

These are small statistical units used by the Census Bureau. The abbreviated glossary for use with this site includes definitions for census tract, block, and block group. The U.S. Census Bureau provides a full glossary on its American Factfinder site as well as a Glossary of Geographic Definitions with related terms.

How do they define race?

The U.S. Census Bureau complies with the Office of Management and Budget's standards for maintaining, collecting, and presenting data on race, which were revised in October 1997. They generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country. They do not conform to any biological, anthropological, or genetic criteria. You can read more in Questions and Answers for Census 2000 Data on Race and Race and Ethnic Classifications Used in Census 2000 and Beyond and more.

Why do they have one question on race and another on Hispanic origin?

In October 1997, the Office of Management and Budget issued Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity. These federal guidelines mandate that race and Hispanic origin or ethnicity are separate and distinct concepts and should be collected in different questions. All Federal agencies that collect and report data on race and ethnicity, including the Census Bureau, must follow these standards. The standards are available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/fedreg/1997standards.html.

What type of data does the U.S. Census Bureau produce on commuting, journey to work, and place of work?

Journey to Work and Place of Work Data came from Census 2000 and the 1990 census. We provide data on such topics as:

  • * means of transportation--car, public bus, bicyle, walk, or work at home;
  • * travel time to work--how long does it take to get from home to work;
  • * time leaving home to go to work;
  • * private vehicle occupancy; and
  • * place of work--state, county, place, minor civil division, and metropolitan statistical area.
The long form of the census was discontinued beginning with the 2010 Census. All Journey to Work data is now gathered by the American Community Survey.

From the Census Transportation Planning Products (CTPP) page, census data on demographic characteristics, home and work locations and journey to work travel flows is available.

I am unfamiliar with some terms on this site. Is there a glossary available?

Yes. We have created an abbreviated glossary for use with this site, and the U.S. Census Bureau provides a full glossary on its American Factfinder site.

Are there other lists of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)?

The Census Bureau FAQ page is here.

 



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