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Census Bureau to track trends in America

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Raise your hand if you think those folks at the U.S. Census Bureau only ask you for information once every 10 years.

Guess again.Field surveys are an ongoing part of the Census Bureau's mission, and data gatherers will begin April 1 to contact some 200 Utah households for information on income, employment, education and lifestyle trends.

It's all part of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), a four-year effort by the bureau to track trends and changes in 40,000 American households.

Participants will be surveyed three times a year through 2002 to track changes over time in people's jobs, the nature of their employment, numbers of people looking for work, income levels, education and health insurance.

Also sought will be information on taxes, child care, work schedules and the number of people receiving assistance from various government programs.

Gini Clarke, a supervisory SIPP statistician in the bureau's Denver regional office, indicated most of the Utahns selected to participate in the survey will be Wasatch Front residents.

Participants will receive a letter from Kenneth Prewitt, director of the U.S. Bureau of the Census, informing them of their selection for the SIPP project.

Census workers will interview some households by telephone and visit others in person.

For the in-home surveys, they will be carrying official bureau identification cards bearing their photographs and signatures.

"Findings from the SIPP are invaluable because they help policymakers reach informed decisions affecting many of us, especially youth and the elderly," said Dwight Dean of the bureau's Detroit regional office.

One piece of data it will check is a 1993 finding that nearly 3 out of 10 American fathers in married-couple families with preschool children play "Mr. Mom" and care for their children during the mothers' working hours.

The survey also will measure whether more people have gaps in their health insurance coverage than in the past, and which groups of people are most likely to have coverage gaps.

By law, census workers will keep all information about the identity of respondents and information about their households strictly confidential.