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Census forms due back Friday for students

By
Contributing Writer
Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This Friday is the deadline for students to fill out and submit their forms for the 2010 U.S. Census.

The census, a survey conducted by the U.S. government every 10 years to determine how many people are in the U.S. and where they reside, aims to “count people at their usual residence, which is the place where they live and sleep most of the time,” according to the 2010 Census Web site.

MaryLou McMillan, senior director for planning and projects and one of three census coordinators at Brown, said that every college with residence halls is required to give the census to its students, though not all colleges handle census distribution in the same way.

Brown students from other states or countries are counted as Providence residents, McMillan said. Meanwhile, U.S. residents who are studying abroad are not counted because they were living outside the U.S. on April 1, the census’ reference point.
Brown, unlike many other colleges, did not ask its residence hall staff to distribute and collect census forms because it was not a responsibility the University wanted to impose on residential counselors, McMillan said.

Instead, students received census forms at their campus mailboxes and are supposed to deposit them in bins located at the Sciences Library, Rockefeller Library,  Sharpe Refectory, Verney-Woolley Dining Hall and the lobby of J. Walter Wilson.

Students who live in Providence but off-campus must complete one census form per residence, she said. If they fail to return it on time, they can expect to be visited in the next few weeks by census workers.

Juliana Friend ’11, a former Herald staff writer, said she had not yet filled out her census form.

“You want to fill that out soon,” Kendalle Bennett ’10 advised Friend. “You do not want them knocking on your door.”

Though it is legally mandated, census completion is more difficult to enforce for students who live on-campus in dorms, McMillan said.

What happens if an on-campus student does not return the form?

“We’re missing some data, that’s what happens,” McMillan said.

Still, McMillan said she expected that most students would complete the survey. In just one afternoon, over 160 students returned their completed forms to the deposit bin in J. Walter Wilson.

The census form is shorter than it was 10 years ago, which may help increase response rates. In 2000, approximately one in six households received a “long form” containing more than 100 questions as well as a “short form,” which was sent to every house, according to the Population Reference Bureau’s Web site. For the first time since 1940, the Census Bureau is only sending a “short form” to all of its citizens this year. In place of the long form, the Census Bureau conducts a separate comprehensive survey, the American Community Survey, on about three million people every year, according to the Web site.

The census — which has created hundreds of thousands of jobs nationwide, but is run by only a handful of people at Brown — provides valuable sociological data that is used frequently in research and politics, McMillan said.

“It’s stunning how much of the information I use comes from previous census efforts,” McMillan said. “I really hope people will fill out their census, so we have complete information.”

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