What's the most common lie people tell on Census forms?
The research is pretty clear: there are very few people who deliberately lie. There are interesting answers that people supply. When we're asking about race, every decade a few people will write in "human." So that is probably not a lie.
Why is the word Negro--considered by many to be a racial slur--used in the race section?
BOWLING GREEN, OHIO
Before the 2000 Census, there were a set of studies that queried how people would self-classify racially. One of the discoveries was that there was an aging cohort of African Americans who [used] Negro. For that reason, in the 2000 form, that word was used. The check box had the label Black, African American or Negro. There were about 50,000 people who checked that box and also wrote in Negro. We inferred that they felt pretty strongly about [using that word] to describe themselves. We analyzed that group, and to our surprise, half of them were under 45. That was a finding.
Why is race relevant at all to the Census?
It is mandated under the Voting Rights and Civil Rights acts. When states redistrict, many of their redistricting plans are reviewed to make sure that the racial composition of the congressional districts they drew up are not discriminatory. We're following the law.
Who gets the information collected by the Census? Do other government agencies get to see the forms, or are they strictly confidential?
Yitzy Engel, BROOKLYN, N.Y.
The individual forms go to a processing center within heavily secure [Census] buildings. We aggregate answers to produce statistics. Nobody [else] sees your data for 72 years under the law. If I violate that law, I go to prison. All my colleagues took the same oath.
What do you think will be the most surprising information the Census will reveal?
Adam Cook, LOUISVILLE, KY.
I was in Minneapolis, and I spent an hour talking to the Somali community there. People in Minneapolis know about this community. People in the rest of the country don't. What's going to happen to surprise us all is the dispersion of new ethnic groups all over the country. Immigration doesn't just come to the East Coast or the West Coast the way it did in earlier generations. It's everywhere now.
Why only a one-pager this time?
We noticed in the 2000 Census that the return rate for the short form was much higher than the long form. For that reason, in order to get higher participation rates, we shortened the whole thing.
What was the rationale behind airing an ad for the Census during the Super Bowl?
GROSSE POINTE WOODS, MICH.
We spent about $2.5 million on that ad. The Super Bowl had the biggest audience in the history of U.S. television; 113 million people saw that ad. Our purpose was to make people aware that the Census was coming.
Why send a pre-Census letter?
Alex de Soto, PHILADELPHIA