Now, there are a lot of important things about that. One, it saves taxpayer dollars. It costs eight times as much to get a questionnaire if we have to go and knock on the door than if somebody mails it back in. But, more than that, we're describing this effort in terms of civic responsibility. It's a way for the country as a whole to grapple with its declining levels of civic engagement and social responsibility and use the census response rate as a thermometer as to whether the country can grab hold of its own destiny.

I understand that you have a census form that people can use on-line. Is that a good option?

It's certainly an option. The census has both a short form and a long form. The short form has about seven questions and goes to all the population. In addition, about one household out of every seven gets the long form. We will not be able to take the long form questionnaire on-line, but we are taking the short form. In fact, I'm sitting here trying to decide if I'll go ahead and put mine in on-line.

Just what I was thinking.

To use it, you must have the official questionnaire that has a bar-code. That bar-code is assigned to your address. A census, remember, is not just a count; it's also an assignment of a person to a location. It's very important that Internet responses be the same as the bar-coded questionnaire. You just type the bar-code in, and it goes right into our system.




What is the advantage to the average person of the government having this information?

Our country's entire representational system is based on data gathered from the census. The allocation of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, the drawing of district boundaries, county boundaries, city election boundaries, school districts, and so forth, are all based on data from the census. All of those lines will be drawn incorrectly if we get a flawed or incomplete count.

Huge flows of money also rely on census data. The Federal government alone has about $185 billion a year that is based upon census formulae of one sort or another.

There's another number out there that I can't even give you because I don't know it. This is made up of private resource investments based on census data: Where to put a shopping mall? Should that shopping mall have a theater in it? Those decisions depend on where the people are (especially where the teenagers are).

The other day I struck up a conversation with a woman in our library. She wants to open up a beauty parlor, and she was looking at census data to see where she should do it. She knew some addresses of other beauty parlors in her area, and she was looking at the data to see how far people travel to get to beauty parlors. So, very small-scale and very large-scale decisions in the private sector are based upon census data.

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