The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.Despite the fact that the U.S. Constitution was not ratified until 1789, the first census of the population of the United States occurred in 1790. Since 1790, the census has taken place every ten years. The last U.S. Census counted the population as of April 1, 2000. The official population on April 1, 2000 was 281,421,906.
In anticipation of Census 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau has been working for years in advance to prepare for the complete count in 2010. Research and census rehearsals began in 2003. In 2008, the Bureau held dress rehearsals in two communities: San Joaquin County, California and a nine-county region surrounding Fatetteville, North Carolina.
In 2009, the Census Bureau is going door-to-door to update the Bureau's address lists in anticipation of sending out a census questionnaire to every home in the country in March 2010. On March 8, 2010 letters are being sent to 120 million homes providing information about the upcoming questionnaires. On March 15, the 120 million questionnaires are being mailed by the Bureau to every home with an address.
While in previous decennial censuses, some homes received a "long form" questionnaire and most homes received a "short form" questionnaire, in the 2010 Census, there will be no long form. Every home will just receive a short questionnaire that should take about ten minutes to complete.
The long form was replaced by the American Community Survey which samples a small number of households across the country on a regular basis to obtain important data about the demographics of the country. No household should receive an American Community Survey questionnaire more than once every five years.
On the short 2010 Census form, the questions will include: name, age, sex, date of birth, Hispanic origin, race, ethnicity, relationship (to the first name listed on the form), and housing tenure (whether a family owns or rents their home). For the first time, same-sex married couples will be counted in Census 2010.
Individuals and families will fill out the form based on accurate information for their household as of April 1, 2010.
From April through July 2010, census takers will visit homes that did not return the form to the Census Bureau. Federal law requires every household to comply with census requirements by filling out a form or responding to a census taker's questions.
The data collected by the Census Bureau is completely confidential and primarily benefits local program. The data is protected by federal law and cannot be released for 70 years. More than $300 billion in federal money is distributed based on census statistics annually.
Once the Census Bureau has collected the population data for every household in the country, the Bureau must provide that data to the President by December 31, 2010. In March 2011 census data is provided to the states to enable the states to redistrict their U.S. House of Representatives districts.
The 2010 Census of the population of the United States will be the largest undertaken in the country's history. It will also be the easiest census form due to the elimination of the long form. If every household participates, the country will have accurate data that can be used to provide appropriate services at all levels of government.