Census begins with mail-it-in appeal

Associated Press / March 16, 2010

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WASHINGTON — More than 120 million US census forms began arriving yesterday in mailboxes around the country, in the once-a-decade population count that will be used to divvy up congressional seats and more than $400 billion in federal aid.

Fast-growing states in the South and the West could stand to lose the most because of lower-than-average mail participation rates in 2000 and higher shares of Hispanics and young adults, who are among the least likely to mail in their forms.

“When you receive your 2010 census, please fill it out and mail it back,’’ said Census Bureau director Robert Groves, who kicked off the national mail-in campaign in Arizona, a state that could gain up to two US House seats because of rapid immigrant growth in the last decade.

Groves is urging cities and states to promote the census and improve upon the rates in 2000, when about 72 percent of households returned their forms. If everyone who receives a census form mails it back, the government would save an estimated $1.5 billion in follow-up visits.

The Census Bureau predicts perhaps two-thirds of US households will mail in the form, citing a growing apathy toward surveys, a high number of residents displaced by foreclosures, and immigrants who are more distrustful of government workers.

The agency is preparing to dispatch census-takers to each home that doesn’t reply by mail.