Many hundreds of Iowans are getting letters in the mail this week to let them know they’ve been chosen to take part in the latest round of surveys from the U.S. Census Bureau. Dennis Johnson, regional director for Census Bureau’s Kansas City office, says this round of questioning will focus on Iowans’ finances.
Johnson says "We’re asking some additional questions regarding employment and some of the economic indicators over the past year for individuals. It’s one of the best ways we have to measure how the economy is effecting people, what the poverty rate is doing, how people are faring under the current economic situation and so forth." Many people may have the misconception that the Census Bureau only surveys people for the big count that comes out once every ten years.
While Johnson says they are gearing up now for the next population count of 2010, they’re doing surveys across Iowa and nationwide constantly. Johnson says "We do a number of surveys throughout the year, in fact some of them are monthly and some of them are actually on a weekly basis. We collect information on employment, on unemployment, on income, on education and we actually do some work for the Department of Justice on crime. We do a lot of work for the National Center for Health Statistics on the health of the American public."
He says Iowans won’t ever be surprised by a Census worker just stopping by their house — that’s not how they do things. He says "Households that are selected for the surveys receive a letter indicating they’ll be contacted by a field representative. The first time we visit a household, we always do that in person. The reason is so we can show our I.D. badge and make sure the people are comfortable with the fact they are actually talking to a federal representative."
Johnson encourages all Iowans who are contacted by the Census Bureau to respond. He says "We do this survey on a sample basis so we’re not talking to everyone. The households that we select therefore represent a number of other households, in fact, they may represent up to another thousand households that are very similar in characteristics to themselves. It’s very important that we get responses from everyone so that the information we collect is as accurate as possible."
Every month, Census workers ask selected households questions relevant to the U.S. labor force, such as their employment status, hours worked, earnings, age, sex, race, marital status, educational attainment, occupation and industry. From these answers come estimates of the unemployment rate, released monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Census Bureau’s monthly Current Population Survey , which dates from 1942 , is the longest-running household survey in the country.