More than 120 million U.S. census forms begin arriving Monday in mailboxes around the country, in the government’s once-a-decade population count that will be used to divvy up congressional seats and more than $400 billion in federal aid. Fast-growing states in the South and the West could stand to lose the most because of lower-than-average mail participation rates in 2000 and higher shares of Hispanics and young adults, who are among the least likely to mail in their forms.
Did those $2.5 million Super Bowl ads work? Stay tuned.
“When you receive your 2010 census, please fill it out and mail it back,” said Census Bureau director Robert Groves, who was set to kick off the national mail-in campaign Monday in Phoenix, Ariz., a state which could gain up to two U.S. House seats because of rapid immigrant growth in the last decade.
Groves is urging cities and states to promote the census and improve upon rates in 2000, when about 72 percent of U.S. households returned their forms. If everyone who receives a census form mails it back, the government would save an estimated $1.5 billion in follow-up visits.
Speaking in an interview, Groves said real-time census data showed public awareness of the 2010 count had improved since January to levels similar to 2000 at this point, which he called “good news.” Still, he remained particularly concerned about motivating young adults, who were lagging other groups. Many twenty-somethings now on their own were living with their parents in 2000, so they haven’t had the experience of filling out census forms.
“If the American public comes through in the way everyone is capable of, we’ll have a great census,” Groves said.