The 2010 Census is underway, and your participation is vital. Across the city, people are embracing their civic and Constitutionally-mandated duty by completing their questionnaire and being counted in the census. As of April 8, 50 percent of all households in Boston that received the questionnaire have mailed it back; but in some neighborhoods, such as Grove Hall (33 percent), the participation rate was much lower. We have a long way to go to help your community secure its fair share of federal funding. However, there is still time for you to be counted by filling out and returning your census questionnaire.
As we have prepared for the 2010 Census, community leaders representing areas of the city served by this paper have voiced concerns that I would like to address to encourage more people to participate.
Jobs: We continue to recruit and build a pool of qualified applicants in Boston and several other areas in Massachusetts. In this economy, a 2010 Census job is an excellent opportunity, but individuals must meet minimum requirements to qualify for federal employment. Applicants must pass a basic skills test and background check, live in an area where we have work to assign, possess specific language skills as required for the position, and be available for training and during the period the operation is conducted. In many areas, a valid driver’s license and access to a car are also required. Most 2010 Census temporary workers will be hired as enumerators, who will work primarily in their own neighborhoods, conducting in-person census interviews with non-responding residences.
Staff in our Local Census Offices only recently started calling eligible applicants to offer temporary enumerator positions. Qualified applicants are listed and contacted in test score order after all the basic requirements are met. The applicant is invited to attend a specific four-day training in late April or early May. It is important to note that if the Local Census Office is unable to reach an applicant or the applicant is unable to attend the available training, the next person on the list will be offered the position.
Confidentiality: Residents have expressed concerns about security of their personal information, especially regarding the number of people living in a housing unit. The Census Bureau does not share information with local code enforcement. Your information is confidential and protected by federal law (called Title 13); and it cannot be shared with any government agency, law enforcement agency, court or person. No law, not even the Patriot Act, overrides the confidentiality law that protects personal information collected by the Census Bureau. In addition, every Census Bureau employee must swear a lifetime oath to protect the confidentiality of census responses. The penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment of up to 5 years, or both.
Race: Concerns have also been voiced regarding the use of the term “Negro” in the race category on the 2010 Census form. This census question is identical to that of 2000 and is based on Office of Management and Budget standards. In the 2000 Census, about 36,419,434 people were counted under the race category “Black, African Am., or Negro”; among those, approximately 56,000 respondents self-identified by writing in “Negro” on their forms. For future surveys and the 2020 Census, the Bureau is exploring discontinuing use of this term.
The census is easy, important and safe. Over $400 billion in federal funds are distributed to states and local communities based on the results of the census. Stand up and be counted by filling out your 2010 Census form and mailing it back.