Data will be gathered on gay and lesbian couples but not on singles
Census forms should arrive in every mailbox on or about March 15 and should be returned in the self-addressed, pre-stamped envelope by April 1.
Each household fills out one form. Person 1 answers 10 questions. Persons 2 through 6 have seven questions to answer. Numbers 7 through 12 fill out just name, sex, age, birth date and check whether or not they are related to person 1.
Octomom will need an additional form, according to Elizabeth Lopez Lyon, the LGBT partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau in Dallas.
Joy Donovan Brandon, the Dallas region’s media specialist, said that the Census Bureau is reaching out to all groups because their goal is counting everyone. That includes the LGBT community — and Lopez Lyon, who has a gay brother and lesbian sister, said she jumped at the chance to fill that position locally, the first ever in the Dallas region that covers a three-state area.
The census has partnered with a number of organizations to encourage participation.
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke appointed Dallas City Councilmember Pauline Medrano as vice chair of the 2010 Census Advisory Committee, which advises on implementation of the census.
According to Brandon, the biggest change in the census this year is that everyone can answer as they self-identify. Gay and lesbian couples that live together will be counted. No category will identify LGBT singles.
Brandon said all answers are self-identifying with no penalties for an "incorrect" answer.
"We’re letting everyone in the United States identify themselves as they see themselves," she said.
She gave an example of a man in her office that most would identify as African-American, but he self-identifies Hispanic.
Although no question asks for sexual orientation, same-sex relationships will be extrapolated from the information provided.
For persons 2 through 6, the second question is, "How is this person related to Person 1?" There are 14 choices given. If "Husband or wife" or "Unmarried partner" is checked and both persons are the same sex, they will be counted as a gay or lesbian couple. If "Roomer or boarder" or "Housemate or roommate" is checked, they will not. The other choices are a variety of familial relationships and "Other nonrelative."
"If you were married in a state where it is legal and live in Texas where it is not recognized, you may self-identify as married," Brandon said.
Brandon said that all answers in the census are completely confidential. No one will be outed as a result of the census.
Brandon said that no one can find out how any particular person answered the census. If parents think someone lives with a roommate and they answered married, she said, that remains completely confidential.
"We take a pledge of confidentiality for life," she said, "Subject to a $250,000 fine, five years in prison, or both. We’re not going to tell your landlord how many people live in an apartment. That’s just not our job. We collect data."
She said that is true for immigration status as well. The census counts everyone living in the United States at the time, whether a citizen, living here temporarily or legally or not. She said that by law, the Census Bureau releases no information on any individuals to Internal Revenue or to Immigration.
The census is one of the few requirements of the federal government, mandated in Article 1, Section 2 of the constitution. Since 1790, the census has been conducted every 10 years.
"It’s a requirement. Everyone’s civic duty. Like jury duty," Brandon said. "The demographic data is turned in to the president by Dec. 31."
She said that mailing the form back saves the government money. Because everyone needs to be counted, beginning May 1 enumerators will be sent to households that did not return their forms. That’s costly and interrupts private time, she said.
Brandon said that the data is used for a wide variety of purposes. Congressional and legislative reapportionment is based on the census. Texas is expected to pick up seats in the House of Representatives as a result of the count.
Money for roads, hospitals and schools is apportioned based on the data. Businesses use the information for a variety of purposes including marketing.
All households will receive the same form this year. There will be no long forms sent to certain households as in the previous few census counts. Each household receives just one form and none are mailed to post office boxes.
Brandon said, "It’s easy, important and safe."
Census seeking workers
The Census Bureau is looking for full-time and part-time enumerators particularly in Oak Lawn and areas of Fort Worth.
The job is temporary running from May through September. The pay varies by area but in Fort Worth, enumerators will earn $15.25 per hour.
Applicants will be given a simple skills test and must pass a background check. Veterans get preference. Applicants must be at least 18 years old. There is no upper age limit.
Hours will vary and include evenings and weekends. Applicants should be flexible. People with language skills are especially needed.
For information, call 866-861-2010.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 26, 2010.