The U.S. Census Bureau plans to give at least $1.6 billion back to the government later this year because the 2010 Census came in under budget, officials said Tuesday.
Congress appropriated $14.7 billion over 12 years for this year’s headcount. Preparations for the 2010 count began in 1999 with early planning meetings, but more than half of the money was spent this year.
The 2010 Census was still the most expensive in American history, but census budgets have climbed every decade since 1950 as the American population and number of households increases. The Census Bureau managed to return $305 million from a $7 billion total budget in 2000.
The American public earned much of the credit from Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Census Director Robert Groves formally announce the total savings. They noted that this year's 72 percent response rate matched the 2000 Census and helped control costs on the labor-intensive follow up process.
"This did not happen by chance," Locke told reporters, adding that "We demanded accountability and stretched every dollar as far as it could go."
The 565,000 temporary workers hired to conduct follow up interviews at the 47 million households that didn't return census forms were more educated and experienced than previous years, Locke said. That's due mostly to a higher number of unemployed overqualified applicants seeking jobs amid the economic slump. The added work experience meant workers spent less money and time on travel and completed their work more quickly.
"That highly skilled workforce came up with efficiencies on their own and ideas that were then incorporated community-wide and then system-wide," Locke said, noting that many workers had worked on mobilization and street organizing efforts with Democratic and Republican political campaigns.
A lack of major natural disasters, few technical glitches and an unprecedented multilingual advertising campaign also helped keep the costs down, officials said.
It's still unknown exactly how much will go back to the government because census operations are scheduled to continue through the end of September, but officials said it will be no less than $1.6 billion. Congress will have the final say on where the money goes.
Also no word on how much the 2020 Census might cost, but Groves has said it will include an online component that should help control costs.
Just think how much more money they could have saved if they weren't doing things like sending enumerators to the same addresses 3+ times! Why no, I'm not mad about that....