For someone who likes to use U.S. Census Bureau data in stories, it’s amazing how reluctant I was to answer the American Community Survey.

I finally logged online to the survey. Wow, it was so dang long. I don’t have that kind of time during a workday and didn’t want to spend my off time sitting at my desk doing what would feel like work.

Questions on the American Community Survey for the U.S. Census Bureau. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

I didn’t realize the U.S. Census Bureau would be so persistent. I was notified by mail and email to fill out the electronic form.

Then the 48-page survey arrived in the mail. It sat on my desk for a couple days before a postcard came reminding me of the necessity to respond.

I finally realized these people were serious and unrelenting. If I didn’t fill out the form, I could expect a Census worker to contact me. I didn’t want that. That could take even more time and surely was never going to be convenient.

Before filling out the form I did a little research.

The Census Bureau website says, “If your address was selected for the American Community Survey, you are legally obligated to answer all the questions, as accurately as you can.”

I also found out every year the Census Bureau randomly contacts more than 3.5 million households to participate in the American Community Survey.

I decided I could fill out the paper document while watching the Giants. The survey will be in the mail this week.

I had to answer questions about me and mom because we are considered a household. Some were about our respective incomes, our health insurance, the house, taxes, insurance. Other questions were about education, ethnicity, where we were born, kids, and so much more.

“Answers are collected to create up-to-date statistics used by many federal, state, tribal, and local leaders. Some American Community Survey questions have been asked in the decennial census since it first began in 1790,” according to the Census.

If I didn’t answer the questions, I faced a possible fine of $100. If I gave false answers, the fine goes $500. While not a ton of money, it was a bit of an incentive. More important, though, I know that the data collected is important for the powers that be to make decisions.

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