The Census: A Snapshot

What: The census is a count of everyone residing in the United States.

Who: All U.S. residents must be counted-both citizens and non citizens.

When: You will receive your questionnaire in March 2010 either by U.S. mail or hand delivery. Some people in remote areas will be counted in person.

Why: The U.S. Constitution requires a national census once every 10 years to count the population and determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives.

How: Households should complete and mail back their questionnaires upon receipt. Households that do not respond may receive a replacement questionnaire in early April. Census takers will visit households that do not return questionnaires to take a count in person.

A Complete Count:

The Importance of Census Data

Every year, the federal government allocates more than $400 billion to states and communities based, in part, on census data. Census data are used to determine locations for retail stores, schools, hospitals, new housing developments and other community facilities.

Census data determine boundaries for state and local legislative and congressional districts.

2010 Census Questionnaire:

Easy, Important and Safe

With only 10 questions, the 2010 Census questionnaire takes approximately 10 minutes to complete. Households are asked to provide key demographic information, including: whether a housing unit is rented or owned; the address of the residence; and the names, genders, ages and races of others living in the household.

By law, the Census Bureau cannot share an individual's responses with anyone, including other federal agencies and law enforcement entities.


The first census took place in 1790 to determine the number of seats each state would have in the U.S. House of Representatives. The census also was created to gain a better understanding of where people lived and to establish patterns of settlement as the nation grew.


The Census Bureau was established in 1902. Today, in addition to administering the census of population and housing, the Census Bureau conducts more than 200 annual surveys, including the American Community Survey, the Current Population Survey and economic censuses every five years. We move forward when you send it back.


Click here for the official census website for kids. Explore coloring pages, quizzes, word finds, and more! Students in grades K-5, have fun learning about the Census Bureau.