Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Just A Few Questions, M'am

An envelope came in the mail yesterday. On the front in big black letters it said "United States Census 2010."

I thought, "Great! They've sent it already, just when I started hearing about how important it is. Perfect timing!"

I forgot this is the U.S. census. What they sent isn't the census. It's a letter telling me I'll be receiving the census in about a week.

Did they realize that if I'm interested in rendering information unto Caesar like the good citizen I am, this letter would be mildly disappointing?

Did they consider that if I'm the type who's uninterested or solidly against participating in the census, a heads-up letter isn't any more likely to cause me to participate?

Do they have any basis for believing it's useful to send an advance letter? Or are they just guessing?

How many trees did it take to send out these letters? Printing costs? Postage?

And how much extra trash goes into the landfill when people simply throw the useless letter away?

Wouldn't it just be better to put big red letters on the actual envelope? May I suggest something like:


Or is it just me?


  1. I was wondering this same thing myself (got mine yesterday), but then I read a thing that said that reminders like this increased the Census response by 6 percent in 2000, and for every 1 percent increase in return rates, it saves the feds $85 million. Because then they don't have to send their people trotting around to houses to ask who is living there and how many of them there are and whether they are happy in their work. (Or whatever the census asks; I have never done one before!) So, fear not, the feds have a plan for us all!

    *dorky about the census*

  2. It seems to me that a notice that you will receive a census form is a big waste of time and money. I am getting letters telling me that I will soon receive my new Visa card. Just send me the visa card.

    But please fill out your censuses for the sake of the genealogists and family historians of the future . . . like me.

  3. Thanks for the nice and educational comments! I have to say I agree with both of you. The advance letter still seems silly to me, but if it's effective, maybe it's worth it.

    Meanwhile, if only the census asked about happiness. I think it's strictly demographics info. But now you can bet I am watching my mailbox even more closely, pen or pencil in hand!

  4. I'm not sure I'm believing the reminder-response stat - seems awfully silly. Might be better to send a reminder AFTER you get the census to say "Hey dummy did you fill that thing out?!" That will be my problem!


Talk to me! I love external validation.