Count Me In

Last week, I was peaceably working when I saw a highly suspicious person skulking around the neighborhood, peering in windows, and I had a momentary crisis of conscience as I tried to decide whether or not to take Neighborhood Watch Approved action. My dithering was interrupted when this person knocked on my door and asked for my address, and I learned that she was, in fact, a Census Mapper.

I talked with her briefly about the Census, and how people were reacting to her. One of the interesting things she said was that although she’s lived here for many years (she’s actually the mother of one of my childhood friends), she was learning a lot about Fort Bragg and the people who live here that she never would have discovered otherwise. She also said that the reaction had been, by and large, positive, and that made me think that perhaps it was time for a public service announcement.

In this era of deep suspicion about random people who walk up to your house and start taking notes, Census employees are occasionally running into problems. So, for my American readers, I thought it might be help to know how to identify a Census taker or mapper, so that you can be assured that these random strangers are, in fact, who they say there are. (Unless you live in a small town, in which case you will probably recognizing the person coming to map or count you.)

  • Census takers/mappers will always identify themselves as being with the Census before they ask for information from you. (Usually as “Hi, I’m Xyz, and I’m with the Census.”)
  • Census employees also wear badges which clearly identify them as census employees.
  • Many of them also carry large black bags which say US Census.
  • The Census employee should hand you a slip of paper that looks like this:
  • Census employees also carry around electronic handhelds that say “Property of US Government,” where they record data.

There have been very few cases of people trying to pass themselves off as Census takers when they really aren’t, but I suppose it could happen. At any rate, I thought people might like a headsup that the mapping has begun, so strange people may be wandering around and asking questions. Also, be nice to the Census people!

I am a pretty big fan of the Census. I like that they really do try to go out and count everyone, rather than just taking a statistical sample and hoping for the best. I also love poring through Census statistics and records, and I hear that Census archives are really useful for people who are interested in geneaology, although I haven’t used them for that purpose.