Census Takers Head to Maryland's Rural Areas


WASHINGTON (Feb. 26, 2010) - Census takers will hand-deliver questionnaires to rural parts of Maryland starting Monday, but residents in more urban areas will have to wait a couple weeks for the surveys.

Visiting about 12 million rural households nationwide, census enumerators plan to target rural Maryland pockets, such as some areas in Calvert and St. Mary's counties and parts of Western Maryland.

More time is taken to visit households in rural areas, which are usually farther apart, said Joe Quartullo, area manager at the Philadelphia Regional Census Center, which oversees the census in Maryland. Also, some rural households have irregular addresses that can make mailing questionnaires difficult.

"There are challenges in rural areas and urban areas," Quartullo said.

Language barriers, he said, are more of a problem in urban neighborhoods.

The Census Bureau plans to mail the 10-question survey to other residents the week of March 15.

Approximately one-third of residents fail to perform the constitutionally-mandated task, Quartullo said.

In that event, enumerators will take in-person surveys at non-responsive households beginning May 1.

At a Senate subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, Census Bureau Director Robert Groves expressed concern and uncertainty about the large risk presented by Americans' response to the census.

"Well, I'm going to make a plea to all of us to do everything we can over the next few days," Groves said to the subcommittee, "to tell friends and neighbors that this thing called the census is coming—that it's a chance for all of us to participate in a building block of the democracies that the founding fathers envisioned?"

Mailing back the questionnaires actually saves money, Groves said.

The 2010 Census is projected to be the most expensive in history, with an estimated cost of $14.7 billion. However, with every percentage point increase in questionnaire mail-back rates, $85 million is saved in follow-up costs, according to the Census Bureau.

Though the census is federally funded through the U.S. Department of Commerce, Maryland does fund outreach efforts to promote the census.

The state has spent about $12,000 plus transportation costs toward the outreach program, said John Coleman, Maryland Department of Planning public information officer.

The results of the 2010 census will determine the amount of federal funding allocated to the states. Depending on population, census results will also redraw political boundaries within a state.

Coleman said it's too early to estimate any changes in redrawing congressional district lines, but the information obtained from the 2010 Census will be useful to determine population size, future land use and policy and planning.

"It's always important for us to know where the center of populations is," Coleman said. "We're looking for data, looking for good data that is useful to the Maryland Department of Planning."

In 2009, the Maryland Department of Planning estimated Maryland's population at 5.7 million—the 19th largest in the United States, according to the Maryland State Data Center.

Maryland is ranked fifth highest in density population, which measures people per square mile.

Density population is an important factor in terms of smart growth and directing development in existing communities, Coleman said.

Maryland expects to grow an estimated 1 million more residents in the next 25 years, Coleman said.

Capital News Service contributed to this report.

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