Census forms confusion: "American Community Survey" is legit

By Aaron Gilchrist - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – The Census Bureau is trying to clear up any confusion about what data is being collected this year. Millions of people are slated to receive a survey that asks for an unexpected amount of personal information.

You've heard it over the last few months. The census is ten questions, asking nothing about your finances or other personal information, and you won't get the form until March. Well, some people have already received a form from the Census Bureau, and it digs deep.

A Henrico woman who didn't want to be identified opened her mailbox to find a packet from the Census Bureau. It's titled the American Community Survey, and is 20-plus pages long. Not the census document she expected.

Richmond's Census manager explained that the form she got is in fact official. That survey and the census short-form both went out in 2000.

"This year we're only sending out the short form which is only 10 questions. But there are approximately 3-million families annually, around the country that will be receiving the American Community Survey report, which is a census form," said George Jamerson, Richmond Census Manager.

The American Community Survey is much more in depth than the census most of us will get in March.

For example, it asks how much your mortgage or rent is, how much money you made in the last year, even what time you leave for work. All the sort of personal info, identity theft experts would tell us not to give out.

"What time do you leave for work? We need to know when those roads are going to be occupied so that if we need to improve or build new roads, we can do it at the right time," Jamerson said.

Jamerson says the survey is used by communities and businesses to figure out the demographics of different areas to plan for the future.

"If somebody wants to build a shopping mall, like over here of Midlothian Turnpike somewhere, the American Community Survey will show whether or not the financial stability is there to support that," he said.

But to eliminate any confusion, Jamerson expects the bureau to suspend the survey's distribution until after the census is complete. If you've already received the survey, the bureau wants you to fill it out and feel confident your information is safe.

"The only thing that goes to the president and the only thing that's gets put in are the numbers. Names are never associated with anything," said Jamerson.

Jamerson says if you get something from the Census Bureau and you're not comfortable that it's legit, you can call the census office at 866-861-2010. You can click here to go to the official census website. It has all the information about how the census works, and what to expect.

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