Census takers begin door-to-door count

Census bureau deploys 12,000 census takers Saturday to complete state count

May 02, 2010|By Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun

Maryland residents who have not mailed their census forms will be visited by one of the roughly 12,000 census takers who began door-to-door surveying this weekend.

Through July 10, the Census Bureau will attempt to conduct the 10-question surveys in person with the estimated 26 percent of Marylanders who did not send back their census forms by the April 16 deadline.

The in-person interviews are part of the federally mandated 2010 census count.

Census takers began canvassing the state on Saturday, with about 2,500 being deployed to Baltimore City, said Sylvia Ballinger, media specialist for the Census Bureau.

"This is a very critical phase of our operations," Ballinger said, adding that while the city has exceeded its 2000 mail-back rate by 6 percentage points, it still has a long way to go.

So far the city has a 66 percent mail-in return rate. The Census Bureau will release the final mail-in return number in the fall.

Households that didn't receive a form by mail, including those that pick up their mail from post office boxes, will be visited by census workers as part of the operation. Residents who mailed their form after the census bureau began planning its follow-up operations might also be contacted.

All census workers will show identification displaying a Department of Commerce watermark and expiration date. Workers are not supposed to ask to enter a person's home, Ballinger said.

As the Census Bureau geared up for the door-to-door count last week, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake urged residents to be vigilant.

"I would urge everyone to use the same caution that they use on a daily basis — to answer the door to a person you know or a person who has an official ID," Rawlings-Blake said.

The census taker will ask only the 10 questions that appear on the 2010 census form, which do not include Social Security numbers or bank account numbers, according to the Census Bureau guidelines.

All of the information will remain confidential, per a life oath all census takers took upon the start of their part-time, temporary employment. A breach of confidentiality carries penalties, including jail time, according to the Census Bureau.

Statewide, about 74 percent of Maryland households have returned the forms, 2 percentage points higher than the national average.

Carroll County led the area with an 81 percent response rate, followed by Harford and Howard counties (79 percent), and Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties (76 percent).

Despite improvement, the city's return rate was the same as Garrett's and Somerset's and exceeded only that of Worcester County (57 percent).

Census takers will visit a household up to six times to attempt an interview. In cases where residents could not be reached, census takers will also seek other sources of information, such as a neighbor or rental agent to obtain as much information as they can.

"We make it a point to train census takers to track their visits," Ballinger said. She said census takers aim to work as efficiently as possible in order to ensure they are visiting households during the most optimal times.

egreen@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun reporter Brent Jones contributed to this article.

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