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Is The Address on Your Form Not What You Expected?

Tue Mar 16 2010
Robert Groves
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This post contains updates to the entry from March 13.

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As we’re getting closer to the census, it’s a good time to answer some questions about various quirks of the process of mailing letters and forms out to 120 million addresses all at once.

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In short, almost everything that can happen, will happen. Although we’ve checked and double-checked our address list and worked with the Postal Service to make sure we’ve supplied them the addresses as they can most easily use them, unexpected events will occur. Some of these are nothing for a household to worry about; others mean that we may have missed something.

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One question keeps popping up: What should I do if my census form has an incorrect address or if I don’t receive a form at all?

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If your form has a different city name or zip code than the one you are used to seeing on your mail, but it otherwise correct, please note the following:

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The actual location of your address has been verified for accuracy. The 20-digit identification number on your form links back to our master address and geographic files where we store the information about the correct geographic location to which your housing unit belongs. This geographic information was verified last year by census workers who physically located each housing unit on the ground and assigned the housing units a “geocode” using special census maps and GPS coordinates.

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The address on your census form or advance letter may not list the city name or ZIP code you identify with or are used to seeing on your mail. This is a result of a cost-saving measure that streamlines how the forms are sorted and delivered to you by the U.S. Postal Service. It will NOT affect which city, town or block your household’s responses will be assigned to when we tabulate census results.

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If the address on the form is completely wrong, it must have been delivered to you by mistake. Please destroy this form. If this is the only form you received, please read below for what to do if you do not receive a form.

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If you don’t receive a form at all, please take the following steps:

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1) Please wait a little longer. We have not yet finished delivery of the forms:

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In areas where Census employees deliver the forms (rather than having the postal service deliver them), the delivery operation has been underway since the beginning of March, but will not be completed for all areas until the end of March.

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In areas where the USPS is delivering the forms, that should be completed this week. In many of these areas, we will send a replacement form beginning in early April. If through some error you did not get your original form, you still might get a replacement form.

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Please note that in some parts of the country (about 1% of all addresses), including remote areas, many American Indian reservations, or areas without postal delivery, the Census Bureau does not send a form to the household. In these areas, we send an enumerator to collect the household information in person. Except for these areas, we have gone to great lengths to ensure a questionnaire is delivered to every address. However, we know that sometimes this won’t happen. Therefore we have set up two ways for you to be included in the census:

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2) Visit a Questionnaire Assistance Center or Be Counted center: These are sites where you can obtain a questionnaire. A “Be Counted” questionnaire asks you to put down a full description of your address, and then contains the same 10 questions as the other Census form. You can complete a Be Counted questionnaire if you have not received your form. Beginning March 19 through April 19, Be Counted questionnaires will be available in public locations, such as libraries, within your community and at Questionnaire Assistance Centers where census workers will be available to answer questions. Beginning March 18, these locations will be posted on

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3) Contact Us: If you still have not received your form by April 12, then you may contact one of our 2010 Census Toll-free help lines.

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  • English: 1-866-872-6868
  • Chinese: 1-866-935-2010
  • Korean: 1-866-955-2010
  • Russian: 1-866-965-2010
  • Spanish: 1-866-928-2010
  • Vietnamese: 1-866-945-2010
  • TDD (Telephone Display Device for the hearing impaired): 1-866-783-2010
  • Puerto Rico (in English): 1-866-939-2010
  • Puerto Rico (in Spanish): 1-866-929-2010

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What if I receive two questionnaires delivered to my home, but with different addresses?

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Please fill out the form for the address you normally use for your mail, and mail it back. You can discard the second form. Because we have to account for each form we mail out, a census taker might come to your home between May and July to find out why the second form was not mailed back. At that time you can tell the census taker that you received two forms and were told to mail one back and discard the other one. We apologize for any inconvenience if that happens.

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The bottom line is that we have a whole series of operations to make sure that we include you in the census at the right location.

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