Friday, August 6, 2010

Will the 2010 Census Surprise Us?

In contrast to censuses past, the results of the 2010 census are not likely to surprise us. In fact, the overwhelming response could be a collective yawn. What was all the fuss about? Didn't we already know that?
At the national level, yes we did know. The Census Bureau's estimates and surveys do a good job of keeping us up to date on the size and characteristics of the U.S. population. But the census does much more, providing population counts and demographic profiles for the entire country down to the neighborhood level. Nothing but a census can do that. So when census results begin to emerge, stifle the yawn and appreciate the depth of the information.
The 2010 census asked only 10 questions, and three of them were administrative... The most interesting socioeconomic questions (such as where our money comes from) have been siphoned off by the annual American Community Survey...

Which answer will surprise us the most? The biggest surprise may be household size. For decades, household size has been declining as smaller families became the norm and more people lived alone. In 2009, however, the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey recorded a tiny blip upwards (from 2.56 to 2.57 people in the average household) as the Great Recession forced Americans to double up. The 2010 census may show that the doubling up has been even greater than suspected. Other data sources hint that this may the case: housing vacancies are at a record high and many middle-aged parents are reporting that their adult children have moved back home.

By Cheryl Russell, editorial director, New Strategist Publications. If you have any questions or comments about the above Q & A, e-mail New Strategist at

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