Making Sense of the Census
The United States Census Bureau collects information about the country in order to inform critical processes and decisions that impact the lives of everyone who resides in America. Here is the Bureau’s mission statement:
The Census Bureau serves as the leading source of quality data about the nation's people and economy. We honor privacy, protect confidentiality, share our expertise globally, and conduct our work openly. We are guided on this mission by our strong and capable workforce, our readiness to innovate, and our abiding commitment to our customers.
Census information is used to determine legislative representation, where to build roads and schools, how to distribute federal funds, including tuition grants and loans, among other things, and is relied upon for university research in economics, sociology, urban planning, and political science. MIT participates in ongoing Census Bureau activities.
Decennial Federal Census
This is an effort conducted every ten years to count everyone residing in the United States regardless of citizenship or legal residency. Starting in 2010, the census form sent to all residents is quite short and only asks name, address, date of birth, gender, Hispanic origin, and race. Individuals will fill out the form, or the head of household will complete the information for other family members living at the address. The information collected through the Decennial Census is confidential and not shared with anyone under any circumstances, including law enforcement, courts, or any other organization or governmental agency. For example, the information cannot, by law, be used for jury purposes. This is the Census that will take place in March and April 2010. MIT is working very hard to ensure that all those who reside in institute-approved housing are counted!
Monthly Federal “Group Quarters” Census
This monthly Census Bureau survey, called the American Community Survey, involves a small sampling of United States residents. The survey measures the characteristics of local populations. A variety of “group quarters” are used for this process, including university residence halls and independent living groups. Other groups include nursing homes, shelters, and prisons. Ten residents of a specific address are randomly selected by the census workers and personally interviewed about topics as diverse as pets, plumbing, income, education, employment, language, and commuting. This census involves our student and non-student occupants, and supplements the Decennial Federal Census with ongoing fresh data.
Annual Municipal Census
Although called a “Census”, this state-mandated annual count of all residents of cities in the Commonwealth, including the City of Cambridge, is not connected to the federal Census Bureau. In Cambridge, the City’s Election Commission collects this data for voter registration and jury duty purposes. MIT has a large volume of students living on campus and in Institute-approved housing (i.e. FSILGs) and is required by law to provide the names of student and non-student occupants, dates of birth, and addresses to the City of Cambridge. For more information about the disclosure of directory information, see 2010 Census and FERPA.