February 4, 2010 | Oak Ridger (Tennessee) | Original Article

Hispanic population rising

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. —

The U.S. Census Bureau is surveying for the 2010 Census and federal officials expect to see a big increase in the Hispanic population in Anderson County, although they're not sure how large the population has grown since the 2000 Census.

"We're hoping to find that out with the (2010) Census," said Silvia Calzadilla, a Knoxville-based partnership specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau.

The census is conducted every 10 years under the U.S. Constitution, and it attempts to count every resident in the United States.

Calzadilla said Oak Ridge has a diverse population.

"We believe it is really large in Hispanics," she said.

Besides Anderson County, she cited Hamblen County and Lenoir City as areas where Hispanic populations are "really growing."

More generally, though, "Hispanics are increasing everywhere," she said.

She defined a Hispanic as anyone from South America, Central America or Spain. Hispanics are sometimes also called Latinos.

In order to provide more information about this year's survey, the U.S. Census Bureau has national and regional tours with stops in cities across the country. Through the tours, officials hope to reach out to hard-to-count communities, which can include rural populations, Hispanics and male African-Americans, among others, Calzadilla said.

With the help of Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan, the Census Bureau's national road tour recently stopped at the Oak Ridge Civic Center.

In the 2000 Census, about 35 percent of Tennesseans did not get counted, and most were Hispanics, she said.

"They don't like to be counted because of fear," sometimes believing that the information collected might be shared with other agencies, she said.                                                 

But, among other things, census workers don't ask for people's addresses, Calzadilla said.

Census mailings in March

Calzadilla said census questionnaires will be mailed out to households between March 15 and 17. The deadline to return those questionnaires is Census Day, April 1.

After that, census workers will go out and knock on the doors of residents who haven't filled out the form, trying to collect it in person.

Calzadilla emphasized the importance of filling out the basic 10-question census survey, pointing out that the data collected is used to help communities receive more than $400 billion in federal funds each year for things like hospitals, job training centers, schools, senior centers, emergency services, and bridges, tunnels and other public works projects. The data is also used to help determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"It's very important for everybody," Calzadilla said.

The Census Bureau information is due to President Obama by Dec. 31 and should be publicly available in Spring 2011.

Calzadilla said people should be safe when someone who claims to be a census worker comes to their doors. You don't have to let the person inside, and you can ask for photo identification, she said.

The name on the photo ID should be the same name as in the Census ID, she said.

Also, people should not answer questions such as, "What is your Social Security number?" or "What is your bank account number?"

Calzadilla said filling out and returning the census questionnaires saves the federal government money because it costs $80 million to $90 million for every 1 percent of the U.S. population that doesn't get counted.

More information and a sample of the census form are available online at www.census.gov.

2000 Census data

The 2000 Census said Oak Ridge has 27,387 people, and 529 of them -- or 1.9 percent -- were Hispanics or Latinos of any race. Most of the Hispanics or Latinos were Mexican.

Eighty-seven percent of the population was white, and 8.2 percent was black or African-American, the Census said.

Asians made up 2.1 percent of the population.

Meanwhile, Anderson County had 71,330 people in 2000, and 787 of them -- or 1.1 percent -- were Hispanic or Latino.

Anderson County was 93.4 percent white and 3.9 percent black or African-American. Asians comprised 0.8 percent of the population.

Temp workers needed

A recent news release published in The Oak Ridger said the Census Bureau will be hiring more than 1 million people for temporary, part-time positions this spring. The workers will visit homes that have not returned their census questionnaires.

Among other things, the Census Bureau is primarily looking for workers who are U.S. citizens, 18 or older, who have a valid Social Security number. Applicants will have to pass a background check and complete a written test of basic skills.

For more information or to schedule an appointment to take an employment test and submit an application, call the toll-free 2010 Census Jobs Line at (866) 861-2010. TTY callers can use the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.

Additional information, including a practice test, is available online at www.2010censusjobs.gov.

John Huotari can be contacted at (865) 220-5533.