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Census official emphasizes count's importance

July 08, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- As the U.S. Census Bureau prepares for its 2010 count of the nation's population, it's trying to educate the public.

Franklin Jackson, a partnership specialist with the Census Bureau, said one question people ask is: Why should this matter to me?

"Census touches almost every part of your life," Jackson said during a presentation in Hagerstown on Wednesday.

Census data helps determine funding for transportation, economic development, public works, public health, emergency preparedness and education, among other categories.

Jackson was the guest speaker at a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce "Eggs & Issues" breakfast at Academy Theatre Banquet & Conference Center off East Washington Street.

Skepticism about privacy keeps some people from answering a census questionnaire, he said.

Jackson said people might worry that the Census Bureau, for example, will tell U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement about illegal aliens living in a residence.

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That won't happen, he said; that's confidential.

"All we want is the information," he said.

A Census Bureau employee who releases information could face a $250,000 fine and jail time, Jackson said.

The U.S. Constitution requires a census be done every 10 years. In between, the Census Bureau surveys the public on a variety of topics.

The 2010 census will measure the U.S. population -- citizens or not -- on April 1.

Households will get a notice about the Census around early March. The census form will arrive next.

Jackson said the form has 10 questions, including age, gender, race, ethnicity and relationship to others in the household.

In the 2000 Census, Howard County had the highest response rate among Maryland counties, at 80 percent, according to a chart Jackson displayed.

Worcester County's rate was 31 percent, the lowest.

Washington County had a 70 percent response.

Hagerstown's rate was 65 percent.

Asked if the Census Bureau has considered moving the census online, Jackson said confidentiality couldn't be guaranteed, so it's not an option now.

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