Margolin Talks to the Census Bureau About His Zip Code

I live in Storey County Nevada (population 4,600) but the zip code in my mailing address is in Reno (Washoe County).

I wanted to know if I would be counted in Storey County (where I live) or in Washoe County (my mailing address).

I called the Census Bureau in Washington DC, Denver, and Reno. Initially I didn't get the right answer. Eventually I did. (I am persistent.)

The following is from the Census Bureau internal memo:
MARCH 25, 1020

(Note the typo in the year.)

Q: The city listed on my form is not the city where I live.

1) Some of the addresses on census forms list a city name that is not yours (some even arrive without a city name). Don’t worry.


3) The 2010 Census mail-out is the largest single delivery ever undertaken by the U.S. Postal Service – over 120 million forms were mailed in March. To streamline delivery in a mailing this large, addresses in a particular ZIP code sometimes were all labeled using a single city name that is valid for the ZIP code, even though some people in that area usually receive mail addressed to a different city name. The Postal Service does not have a problem with this because for many addresses there are multiple city names that are perfectly acceptable for accurate delivery.

4) If you got a form at your address, you’re fine. Fill it out, mail it back, just as it is. We will place your return with the right area. If you got the form, we have coded your house to the right geography.

This was expanded on in the Yahoo Group for my Community.

Last year the Census Bureau sent people out with GPS units and got the GPS location for every house. The location of each house was assigned to a Census tract. The Census Bureau knows what county each Census Tract is in.

It has been brought to our attention that residents are concerned that they will not be counted in Storey County for the Census based on their zip code. We took your concern to our local Census Office to get the facts.

The answer is you will be counted in the Census tract in which you live, and all tracts are coded to the County in which they are located, not the zip code. Zip codes are from the Postal Service; Census Bureau uses its own system - the Census tract.

The Census Bureau internal memo contains other interesting items:

• The post office will not forward Questionnaires.

• Enumerators will start going to homes on May 1. Enumerators will have badges (not photo) and carry Census briefcases. They use paper forms instead of carrying laptops.

• The administrative hot line is 1-877-233-4677. Phone calls can also be transferred to our office admin line #54100. This is a good way for people to confirm whether or not someone at their door is a Census employee.

• The law says that Census employees may cross “No trespassing” signs if necessary to do their job.

• The penalty for not returning a form can be up to $5000. The Census will try everything possible to get information without threatening a penalty.

• Mailboxes are USPS domain and therefore a Census employee cannot put the questionnaire in a mailbox.

• A form is federal property and cannot be tampered with by anyone except the recipient and Census employee.

• When 2010 Census questionnaires are initially mailed to households, they are not mailed to PO box mailing addresses. However, when a request is made to a TQA call center to send a replacement questionnaire or a Language Assistance Guide (LAG), the TQA WILL mail the questionnaire or LAG to a PO Box mailing address. TQA operators will begin sending replacement forms to callers with or without an ID on April 12. Prior to April 12, TQA only sends replacement forms to callers who can provide their ID number from their questionnaire.

This last item explains why no one in Virginia City received a questionaire. Everyone in Virginia City has a Post Office Box.

Click here for the complete memo.

In a Census-related matter, the Census Bureau has had a part in the history of technology. Years ago I wrote a book about the history of technology. I could not persuade a publisher to publish it so you probably haven't read it, except for the chapter I adapted for my web site: The Road to the Transistor.

Click here for the part of the book that mentions the Census Bureau.

Jed Margolin
Virginia City Highlands (which is in Storey County, NV, despite the zip code in his mailing address)
April 14, 2010