The U.S. Census Bureau's once-a-decade population count kicks into high gear this month as the government agency sends out forms to more than 130 million addresses across the country. The forms are due to arrive in mailboxes March 15-17. Households that don't return the questionnaires can expect a knock on the door from a census-taker between April and July.
"We need your help — it's critical that you mail back your form rather than wait for a census worker to show up on your doorstep. Between $80 to $90 million in taxpayer dollars are saved for each 1 percent increase in mail response," the Census Bureau says.
The 2010 census form consists of 10 questions and officials estimate it will take only about 10 minutes to complete. All answers are kept confidential, the agency says, and won't be used against anyone.
The Census Bureau also has partnered with more than 200,000 organizations across the country, from churches to community groups to corporations and Indian tribes, to help ensure an accurate count.
The Census Bureau says its job will be easier if households fill out and return the 10-question questionnaire. In 2000, about 72 percent did so. But if the forms don't get returned, or if workers need to check addresses, then census takers will hit the streets and knock on doors.