Privacy concerns pose challenge for 2010 Census
Local governments are educating residents about the importance of filling out their 2010 U.S. Census forms by April 1, because an accurate count will affect how much federal funding they will receive for priorities like roads and schools. The obstacles to their success include proving to some residents that the U.S. Census Bureau can be trusted with personal information, communicating with non-English-speaking residents and the paperwork.
The heightened concern among residents about confidentiality is a result of several events — including the immigration debate, [the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks] and Hurricane Katrina — that have caused some to distrust the government, says Tim Olson, assistant division chief for the U.S. Census Bureau’s Complete Count Committee program, which assists cities and counties in promoting the census in their communities. “Distrust becomes a challenge and also an opportunity for local officials to let residents know there is a lot of money attached to the Census for funding,” he says.
“A lot of our job is to dispel fear,” says Jennifer Giles, a specialist with the Los Angeles Regional Census Center. To accomplish that, the Census Bureau is encouraging partners to emphasize that personal information obtained during the Census is not shared with any other agencies and that all Census employees are subject to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if they break confidentiality.
In reaching out specifically to immigrants and non-English speaking residents, one page of the 2010 Census Web site will be available in 56 languages, and the entire site will be translated into Spanish by the end of the year. Also, the bureau will be sending bilingual questionnaires to certain regions with high percentages of Spanish-speaking residents, said Robert Groves, director of the Census Bureau, during a recent briefing.
To reduce paperwork and boost participation in general, the bureau is using one of its shortest questionnaires ever for 2010, and it will mail follow-up forms to those who do not initially respond.
Read more information about the 2010 U.S. Census.