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Updated: Oct 2, 2020

If you knew you could take one easy step to make your community a better place, and it only took 10-15 minutes…would you do it?

What is The Census anyway?

The U.S. Census is the decennial (once per decade) count of the population of all 50 U.S. states and the five permanently inhabited U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa). The goal is to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.

Interesting! Where does The Census come from?

Although the concept of conducting a census is not new—the ancient Babylonians, Chinese, Egyptians, and Romans all did it—the United States was the first modern country to do so, and to codify it in its Constitution. The framers of the United States Constitution believed that population, not wealth or land, should be the basis for distributing political power: as Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution states, “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers.” In order to determine those numbers, the framers decided that “[e]numeration shall be made...within every...Term of ten years.”

That’s all well and good...but what’s in it for me?

Here are some important outcomes determined by Census data:

  • Your Congressional district’s share of nearly $700 billion in federal funding, which helps to fund schools, hospitals, roads, public works, and other public programs

  • Where businesses decide to build stores, offices, and factories (thereby bolstering the local economy and creating jobs)

  • Where developers decide to build new homes

  • How your state legislature draws your state’s Congressional districts

And perhaps most crucially:

  • How many Congressional seats your state receives in the House of Representatives

Wow, that’s important! So it’ll probably take me a while to fill out my Census form, right?

Surprisingly, no! The Census form rarely takes more than 10-15 minutes to complete.

But surely I have to answer some highly personal questions, right?

Nope! The Census Bureau is only interested in population numbers and basic demographics. Moreover, all your private data is kept confidential and is protected by law (Title 13 of the U.S. Code). The Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about you, your home, or your business, even to law enforcement agencies; your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court.

That’s a relief! In that case, what sort of questions do I have to answer?

Once you enter your address, you just have to answer some basic questions about your household:

  • How many people were living or staying in your home on April 1, 2020? (This includes children, roommates, and temporary lodgers.)

  • Were there any other people staying in your home on April 1, 2020, that you did not include in Question 1?

  • Do you rent or own your home?

  • What is your telephone number? (Don’t worry, the Census Bureau will only call you if any of your answers are unclear.)

  • You’ll then list each member of your household (including yourself), as well as their age, date of birth, sex, and race. Indicate if any other members of your household are related to you, and if they usually live or stay somewhere else.

The Census Bureau will NEVER ask you for:

  • Your Social Security Number or alternative documentation

  • Your citizenship status

  • Your bank account or credit card numbers

  • Your personal or household income

  • Money or donations

  • Anything on behalf of a political party

Seems simple enough! Where can I fill out my Census form?

There are three ways to respond to the Census:

What’s this I hear about Census workers knocking on my door?

The Census Bureau hires and dispatches Census takers, also known as enumerators, to conduct the “non-response follow-up” portion of the Census. Enumerators knock on doors to interview the residents of every household that has not responded via the online or paper forms to collect Census information. Enumerators serve as the last line of defense for getting an accurate count.

Fun Fact: responding before the Census Bureau dispatches enumerators vastly decreases the cost of conducting the Census. As Robert M. Groves, former Director of the Census Bureau, stated in 2010, “It costs us just [55 cents] in a postage paid envelope when households mail back their…forms [and] about $25 per person if we have to go out and knock on the doors.” In 2010, this translated to a price tag of nearly $13 billion in taxpayer dollars to conduct the Census.

In conclusion...

The Census Bureau has been instructed to end all counting efforts on September 30, a month earlier than previously announced, which “will result in seriously incomplete enumerations in many areas across our country.” Roughly 4 out of 10 American households have not yet responded to the 2020 Census; click here to see current response rates in your area. If you haven’t done so already, please fill out your Census form as soon as possible. If you have, please share this post with a neighbor, friend, or family member to make sure they do the same. Your participation is paramount!

-Ian Vlahović, PROTESTRA



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