What is with the Census Questionnaire and babies?

Rantish first part:

Ok, let’s look at the first question: “Count all people, including babies, who live and sleep here most of the time.”

Do people traditionally not count babies? Is this a continuing problem that Dad, Mom, Lisa are counted but not baby Joey because he can’t raise his hand when roll is called? Considering how general the term “baby” is used, even to mean unborn children by many people, I think this will cause more confusion.

Continuing on, we get to question #2: “Where there any additional people staying here on April 1, 2010 that you did not include on question 1? (Mark all that apply)”

Our first checkbox option: “Children such as newborn babies or foster children.” (I understand the foster children mention. I get that.)

Why are we asking AGAIN about (non-foster) babies? The form just EXPLICATELY stated (just in case anyone wasn’t clear) that babies were to be included in question 1’s count, why are they asking again? This is the census saying “Look, we know you lied about question 1, so we are going to give you second chance to come clean with us. Did you really count baby Joey?”

Doubtless that some parents are now confused if they should include Baby Joey in question 1 or in question 2. Come on Census, you had 10 YEARS to come up with 10 non-confusing straight-forward questions!

Actual factual question: Does anyone know why the confusingness about babies? Is this traditionally a problem?

A lot of people probably don’t think of a baby, which is honestly like a leaking potted plant that yells, as a person before a certain age. Doesn’t occur to them that it’s a person who “lives” somewhere, maybe.

In general, they have very carefully crafted the questions so that they will get as accurate an answer as possible. It appears that a lot of people do forget to include babies. You assume that because a particular wording doesn’t help you that it doesn’t help anyone. They are the experts in wording the questions. You aren’t.

As someone who used to conduct opinion polls (for small-town populations) and who found that f there was any possible way to misread a question, about 20-30% of repondents will, I have to back Wendell’s point here.

I can recall, vaguely, hearing about a rumor that was going around in 1970 or 1980 to the effect that what the Census was asking about was what was the case on January 1 – and the prevalence of this erroneous belief would make re-emphasizing “and that includes babies” and the official “as of” date an extremely good idea.

One WAG possibility might have to do with newborns who are not yet named. Depending on the household’s religious/cultural beliefs they might have a newborn who has not yet been baptized/anointed/circumcised/whatever and therefore is not officially named. So one cannot fill out the section that asks for a name but the newborn would be need to listed somewhere anyway.

This comes to my mind since the earliest record I found for one of my great-grandmothers was a census record in the Old Country where she was listed as “an unbaptized girl” (tr.), having been born days earlier. (Which frustrated me as there were many variants of her name and I was hoping to see her “original” name.)

You also might not have a SSN for your kid yet, so people might think that only those with SSNs should be counted. Babies also don’t go to school or have jobs, so the parents might not think that anyone not benefiting from or paying into the tax system should be counted.

Just agreeing with what has already been posted.

I’ve been doing market research for 20 years, and writing surveys for that long. It’s not uncommon for us to put that “including any babies” in questions about household size, because some people will either (a) forget them when they make a mental count, or (b) assume that the questioner doesn’t consider an infant a "person’, for whatever reason.

Infants are frequently not charged for on transportation or entrance tickets, reinforcing the vague impression that they’re somehow not yet entirely separate individuals.

Ya know, it had never occured to me that you would either forget or not consider your own flesh and blood in the next bedroom a person, but if people made sense, I guess we wouldn’t have such a screwed up world.

What Kimstu said. When buying admission to many events, “Children under 2 admitted free” or whatever is the standard. Typically, those children are not going to get anything out of the experience of being there, but parents kinda need to bring them for logistical reasons, so you aren’t charged for their presence. Thus the expectation is set to think of babies as non-counting.

These days most people apply for the SSN when you are still in the hospital with the baby who was just born. At least that is the case around here. For 1 thing you need a SSN to claim the kid on your taxes.

Well, the chief thing about babies is that they aren’t very old.

The phrase “sleeps here most of the time”-- how would that apply to someone 4 days old who spent 3 nights in the hospital? I think that’s pretty clear-cut that you should count them as living at your home.

But what about babies in the NICU who are expected, at best, to be there for weeks-- and who may never sleep at your home at all? Does the hospital count them as residents or what?

Dude, is it that difficult that you have to imagine extreme unusual cases?

Is it your baby? Will it live there when it gets out of the hospital?

Either you count it as living there because that’s its legal residence (as opposed to temporary residence, like a hotel or hospital (duh)), or you don’t count it as living there because it hasn’t moved in yet, in which case it will not be counted in the 2010 census, so will not show up until the 2020 census.

I think the census makers would prefer you count it as living there even if it is still in the hospital.

But there are plenty of babies who have been home for more than a couple days. Babyhood lasts, like, a year or two. (People tend to stop calling them “babies” when they start calling them “toddlers”. YMMV.)

I’d count an unborn child to. Especially if mom is only a couple months away from delivering. The kids got one hand half way out already. :wink: