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2010 Census: what you need to know

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The US government will also use the census to determine how to divvy up $400 billion in annual federal spending for programs such as Medicaid.

How accurate is it?
The process has “a variety of -quality-control procedures built in,” says Robert Groves, census director. After the census itself is over, for example, the bureau will conduct another survey – “a large sample-based” one to see how well it did, Mr. Groves says.

The undercounting of residents is of particular concern to many states and cities. After the 2000 Census, the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, in a report to Congress, estimated that because of undercounting, 31 states and the District of Columbia lost $4.1 billion for eight federal programs between fiscal years 2002 and 2012.

Will the census count noncitizens?
Yes, US law requires a count of all “persons” and “inhabitants” – without specifying whether they are citizens or noncitizens, legal or illegal.

The First Congress was aware that many foreign-born people were living in the country, says Audrey Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “They intentionally did not use the term ‘citizen,’ ” she says of the 1790 law establishing the census.

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