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Students encouraged to return census forms

It may not be home, but it's where you live on April 1 -- be it dorm, independent living group or off-campus apartment -- that counts when Census 2000 is taken.

The US Census, conducted every 10 years, is counting all residents of the United States wherever they reside on April 1, 2000. All people living in the United States are required to return their census forms regardless of nationality or age. Historically, one of the most difficult groups to accurately count has been the resident student population of colleges and universities.

MIT has been working with the City of Cambridge, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the US Census 2000 since last summer to encourage students and others in the MIT community to respond to the national census. The Institute's task was to develop ways of helping the census without compromising the privacy of its students.

At the request of Census 2000, MIT provided the agency with a list of students and their local addresses for the spring term. This information was provided only after each student was notified by e-mail and had an opportunity to have his or her name deleted from the list. Title XIII privacy provisions protect all information provided to the census by MIT.

The Institute has also encouraged students via e-mail to complete and return their census forms. On-campus students received their forms in their residential mailboxes; tables were set up in each residence and the Student Center to collect forms and answer questions. Students at residential colleges and universities are counted at the locality of their schools rather than their parents' homes.

Census data determine public appropriations to states and cities for infrastructure and services. Researchers including urban planners, political scientists and economists also use the information to make policies on transportation and other issues.

The information in census forms is confidential and cannot be shared even with other federal agencies or the executive branch. It has no effect on legal residence or voting status.

Anyone who has not yet returned his or her census form can send it to US Census 2000 Office, 9 East St., second floor, Cambridge, MA 02141.

MIT has had a long association with the census. President Francis Amasa Walker, a statistician, economist and scholar of entrepreneurship, was chief of the United States Bureau of Statistics and served as superintendent of the US Census in 1870 and 1880.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 26, 2000.

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