Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Mrs. Roy believes in fair play so I'm posting the response I got to my email about the pre-census letter.
Thank you for your e-mail.  Secretary Locke and Census Bureau Director
Robert Groves have asked me to respond on their behalf.

We here at the Census Bureau certainly understand your concern, and I want
to assure you we care a great deal about being good stewards of the
taxpayer's money.

The short answer to your question is that even on the eve of census forms
arriving this week, as many as 45% of Americans are unaware that this month
is when the Census starts.  That's probably due to the fact we only do a
Census once every ten years.   Based on historical response rates, we
expect roughly two thirds of households will mail back their form.  The
rest we will have to send an enumerator to collect the data required by the
Constitution.  You can imagine that follow-up is an expensive proposition.
In fact, every one percent increase in the number of households who mail
back the form saves the taxpayers about $85 million in expensive
door-to-door follow up.  That's why we advertise and promote, to increase
the mail back response rate and help save on expensive labor to follow up.

We have extensive research that shows additional mailings alerting
households to the arrival of the census form increase response rates by
about 6 to 12 percentage points. The savings from that increase more than
pay for these mailings.  It costs about $85 million to print and mail the
advance letter and reminder postcard.  The potential increase in response
rates demonstrated by our research could result in a savings of more than
$500 million.

After the 2000 Census we returned to the Treasury some $305 million in
savings.  Then Secretary of Commerce Don Evans testified in 2001 to the
U.S. Senate that those savings came about from our advertising, promotion
and PR efforts encouraging households to mail back their forms, increasing
response rates over the prior census for the first time in three decades.

The total we spend on all promotion and advertising is about one dollar per
person in the U.S.   It costs just 42 cents to mail back the form.  But it
costs $57 for follow up with non-responding households, many of which we
must visit several times to reach someone at home.   We wish we did not
have to advertise, and that 100% of households mailed their form back, but
that is just not the case.  Not everyone is as active and engaged as

We appreciate your civic minded spirit, and your concern for our current
fiscal situation.  I hope this information helps explain the steps we are
taking to reduce the burden on taxpayers of meeting our Constitutional
mandate to count every person in the country.


Karen Shipley
U.S. Census Bureau
Phone: 301-763-6537

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