Ding Dong, Census Calling: What to Do When the Census Worker Comes Calling

Some things may be obvious but when dealing with a federal agency some people may become intimidated. Here are a few ideas to mull over before the census worker knocks on your door.

Check the ID, get the badge number. The census worker should show you a badge that will have a watermark on it. When they do be sure to write down the worker’s name and badge number for future reference.

You do not have to open your door to a census worker. You can tell them through the door, or an intercom, to leave the materials on the doorknob and you will get it later. You do not have to explain why you are choosing to not open the door.

You DO NOT have to allow a census worker or a census supervisor into your home. If you choose to open the door and answer the questions you can do so on your porch or in your front yard.  Instances of rape and robbery perpertrated by census workers have been reported. Whether or not those were actually census workers or posers is up to the court to decide. However it has been proven that the Census Bureau has hired a certain amount of convicted felons.

Do not give any money to a census worker. There are  any number of con artists and scammers out there  posing as census workers that are preying on the elderly, the new immigrant, and the unaware. There have been reports of census workers asking for money for the census bureau, in all likeliness these people are probably not  legitimate census workers. If that happens be sure to report it.

Do not answer any legal questions. A census worker should not be asking you questions about any legal matters or your legal status. If one does ask such questions, discontinue the conversation and report the census worker by badge number.

If you choose not to answer any  of the questions politely inform the census worker and end the conversation. Do not be rude or threatening and don’t be provoked into a saber-rattling contest. Most of the census workers that knock on doors are temporary hirelings and are just trying to make some money to pay bills in these tough economic times. They are temps on the bottom rung of the monsterous ladder of the Census Bureau. Who knows what kind of job any of us would take to keep a roof over our kid’s heads. The issue isn’t always with the worker, unless they become unprofessional.

If you become rude or threatening, even if they do, it will not work for you if your case goes to court. When anyone becomes angry and belligerent it is usually a signal that they do not feel in control of a situation. 

There are two types of anger, the unthinking anger of someone who feels threatened and stops thinking clearly and the righteous indignation of someone who is wrongfully treated but continues to maintain control, continues to think clearly and takes the proper action to handle the situation. Maintain your calm and maintain control of the situation. Remember, the census workers are public servants paid by your tax dollars.

If a census worker becomes harrassing or threatening in any way close the door and report the census worker. There has been one case  reported where a census worker brought his pitbull with him on the job. The census worker got into a heated argument with an American citizen in the homeowner’s front yard and the dog bit the citizen.

Be aware that census workers do not receive a great deal of training but they are trained in what is called Refusal Aversion Training which is designed to teach the census worker how to engage the interviewee in conversation to increase the likelihood of cooperation. This sometimes take the form of friendly, engaging conversation designed to break down resistance. However, some census workers have short fuses because of the frustrations of the job. By the time one gets to your home they may not be in the best of moods or they just may be on a power-high. Either way some census workers will try intimidation by telling you that there are fines for not anwering questions. That is true. The fines start at one hundred dollars.You still have options. Some American citizens have refused to answer the questions and  told the census worker to send them the bill  but they never received notice of any fines.  To date there is no record of someone being jailed or fined for not answering questions.  One of the reasons for this is that the Census Bureau is under such scrutiny from so many agencies and civil liberties organizations that to open a can of worms by prosecuting someone for not answering questions is to invite a court case that more than likely will not be in their favor and will result in calling attention to their gross ineptitude, inefficiency, and misuse of federal dollars that it would not be worth it.

Some citizens choose to answer only the question regarding the head count for purposes of proper representation in government (the original intent of the census). As a general rule citizens who have chosen to do that have found that they get repeat visits and phone calls from the census bureau. Eventually though the visits and phone call do stop.

Some American citizens have chosen to video tape, or audio tape,  their conversations and interactions with a census worker. Usually it is done by a third party observer while the homeowner engages in interaction with the census worker. A video camera by the front door is not a bad thing. Again, do not be hostile or aggressive while performing the video taping. It is best, if possible, for the homeowner to stand inside their doorway and have the videographer stay within the home while filming over the homeowner’s shoulder.

You can choose to differentiate between the 10 questions census form and the highly invasive American Community Survey both of which require a response under the current law. You may want to choose to answer one and not the other,  or you may want to stand on civil disobedience and not answer any of them. You do have choices and you need to be prepared for any repercussions that result from your decision. To the best of my knowledge to date there just hasn’t been anything in the way of repercussions.

Of course the mandated reponse is for  you to choose to answer all of the census questions on all of the census forms. You might even want to answer the Census Bureau’s Consumer Expenditure Survey that was conducted in 2008 and may or maynot come around again. Information on the Consumer Expediture Survey can be found at You Bought What!?

The Census Bureau does not use email as a form of communication with American citizens. If you are getting emails that say they are from the Census Bureau it is most definitely a scam. You can choose to delete it or report it to the Census Bureau.

You can also ask the census worker some questions. The census worker is a public servant as such you might want to download and print this Public Servant Questionnaire PDF. Remember to hit your browser’s back button to get back to CensusThis.Wordpress.

If you have any other reasonable suggestions for helping someone deal with the census workers please feel free to leave them in the comment section. Please be sure your suggestions are helpful and not just a venting session. Thank you.

Sign me,

Resident Apt.1


3 Responses

  1. Good article. We were recently treated to several door tags and one letter, expressing the “urgent” need for us to contact the census field rep whose name and number was on the tag. We’d been selected, ta! da!, to participate in the Consumer Expenditure Survey. I expressed concern to the rep and to his office about my impression of this being obligatory, and that we could be fined if we didn’t take part. We were never told that this survey was VOLUNTARY. I learned this after looking at the survey’s related website. I felt kind of duped and treated deceptively because we weren’t given information up front that would make some, I guess, opt out of the survey. We did opt out, in part because of the sneaky “no information” bit – and I contacted my congressman with a complaint.

    Am happy to do the regular census, and have issues with the “community” census, which we haven’t been asked to take yet. With headaches though that are job related, health related, and family related, the last thing we want to do is take time to inform the Federal Government about how much we spend on toilet paper every week.

  2. “Ding Dong, Census Calling: What to Do When
    the Census Worker Comes Calling | Census This” ended up being a great article.
    In case it possessed alot more images it would probably be perhaps
    even more effective. Thanks -Anastasia

  3. I was a good little American, and filled out my census form when it came in the mail. I even filled it out a second time when it came again in the mail because I thought “hey, maybe it got lost in the mail”. Then, my husband filled it out with the woman that came to our door a couple weeks later. So, we have done it three times and we are getting harassing and threatening phone calls 4 times a week and then they alternate between saturday night and sunday night. Its ridiculous! Anyway, I thought I would turn it into something funny.. if you wanna read go to my blog and read… http://itsgrindingmygears.blogspot.com/2010/06/dear-mr-census-worker.htm

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