WASHINGTON, DC: At ten-year intervals since 1940, around twenty percent of US households have been required to complete a detailed questionnaire alongside the standard American Community Survey census form sent to all homes coast-to-coast.

But if Congress approves plans submitted last week by the US Census Bureau, the additional screed sent to one in every five homes will become ancient history by the next survey in 2010.

Instead, the ACS will appear in shortened form with redundant questions eliminated. Recipients will, however, be required to answer additional questions relating to gender, age, race, ethnicity, relationship and ownership/rental of homes.

USCB executives estimate that the complete survey form will take no more than ten minutes to complete. It will provide key socio-economic and housing data about the nation's rapidly changing population on a more regular basis, giving decision-makers more timely, current and detailed data.

It represents, claims Census Bureau director Louis Kincannon, a balance between the need for data and the Bureau's commitment to eliminate redundant questions and reduce completion time.

Census data impact directly on how $200 billion (€149bn; £101bn) in annual federal and state funding is allocated to local, state and tribal governments. The figures are also a key factor in federal and state preparation for emergencies and disaster recovery.

Says Kincannon: "Decision-makers need ACS data to make choices that affect our daily lives, such as where to build a school, place a new road, improve public health care and provide services for the elderly. Our goal is to provide a questionnaire that is quick and easy to complete to ensure that respondents fill it out and mail it back."

The USCB also announced that as of this month it will start to collect spending data on groceries, clothing, transportation, housing, health care and other items from a nationwide sample of households.

To access further information on the 2010 census click here.

Data sourced from mrweb.com; additional content by WARC staff