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Census Bureau Launches 2010 Road Tour

The Census Bureau launched its 2010 campaign Monday and will spend $340 million on a media campaign to convince Americans to fill out and send back the decennial surveys. Millions of forms will be mailed to residences and shelters as the government fulfills the constitutionally-mandated count of everyone living in the United States.

Thousands of workers will follow up with door-to-door tallies. There’s even a road tour with a 46-foot trailer and 12 cargo vans, as well as ads on TV, radio, billboards and even text messages.

More than $400 billion in federal spending depends on the census. Much of last year’s Recovery Act funding was apportioned based on data collected in and since the 2000 census.

Population also determines political representation, and both Democrats and Republicans are already gearing up for the fight over reapportionment. Politics Magazine reports that party committees and allied groups (known as 527s, for their IRS code), have formed strategies based on what happened after the last census:

“This is really the first time that both congressional and state legislative redistricting are being done under one umbrella,” says Bill Burke, executive director of Foundation for the Future, a 527 formed back in 2004 to plan next year’s Democratic redistricting effort. “In the past, Democrats got started late, were underfunded and most of the interest here in D.C. was with the congressional level, as opposed to what was happening in state legislatures.”

Beyond politics, the New York Times reports that the census could also be an economic stimulus, as the federal government spends and hires for the big count:

Not in more than a half-century has the United States census been conducted amid such high rates of joblessness. The 1.2 million census-taking jobs may be temporary, but they pay well, and economists say they will provide a significant lift.

The jobs will amount to a $2.3 billion injection into the economy at a critical juncture, a bridge between the moment when many economists believe the private sector will finally stop shedding jobs and when it ultimately begins to add them.

“These are real jobs with good solid hourly pay,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Economy.com.

We’ll be watching the process, too. Much of our Patchwork Nation project runs on data from the Census Bureau, from population to income, and we’re always on the lookout for the latest numbers.

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