Find it, Fill it out, Be Counted: The Importance of the US Census

The 2010 Census Official Logo

In a witty repartee with her openly gay co-host and her husband, Jackie of 100.3 KPEK of Albuquerque, New Mexico asked, “why aren’t the censuses just sent out with our tax returns?”

Because not everyone fills out their taxes, of course.

Instead, the purpose of the Census, according to Partnership Specialist Emily Torres of the US Census Bureau’s Boston Office, is to essentially take a picture of the US population “at a certain point in time”–and the Census Bureau does not limit that number solely just to those individuals who pay their taxes.

‘Sounds simple enough, right?’ asks me, the RA in a 14-person house.

Not quite.

Sure, sending the census to people in their houses and apartments is one thing, but what about all of the people living in this country without the proper numbers and documentation, those living in jails or institutions and the hundreds of thousands of people who cannot necessarily be reached directly via USPS air mail?

These people, as residents of the US, need to be counted, and the means through which they are counted may and can cause a significant red-tape related headache in the same region of one’s brain affected by bureaucratic paperwork.

The Census Flyer created by some very talented AdLab members

But it’s really not that bad.

In fact, this year’s census only has ten questions, and it should only take you ten minutes to fill it out. This is approximately the same amount of time one might spend procrastinating, doing dishes or folding laundry.  The main difference in these these activities, however, is that by filling out your census, you help to bring real change to a community since the census directly impacts federal funding allocations.

Why the Census is Important:

-Census data is used to determine how federal funds are allocated to local, state, and tribal governments.

-Census data aids many government-planning decisions in the areas of education, transportation, and public safety, etc.

-Census data supports research done by faculty, students, and community leaders.

-Census data determines the number of state seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In an exclusive Quad interview, we spent some time with Torres of the US Census Bureau’s Boston Office and one of the key hands in the Boston University Census on Campus Campaign.

Here’s what she had to say:

Quad Exclusive Interview with Emily Torres, Census Partnership Specialist

BU Quad: What is the census on Campus initiative?

Emily Torres: [It is] an awareness campaign about the 2010 Census designed to reach college students. The Census on Campus Initiative seeks to educate, engage, and mobilize college and university students, administration, faculty, and parents so that in the 2010 Census, every individual is counted—once, and in the right place.

Historically, the highly mobile college student population living on and off-campus has been hard to count – in part, because many people believe that college students are counted on their parents’ questionnaires. However, students living away from home will receive their own questionnaires, so [as] to prevent students from being counted twice (or not at all) in the census. [The students] and their parents need to know this. As powerful grassroots organizers, students and other educational leaders can have an influential voice in reaching others with the message of the 2010 Census.

Q: How is census on campus different from the Regular Census initiative?

Torres: It targets college students and reaches out to administrators, faculty and student leaders so that they can become partners and help get the 2010 Census messages out. The slogan is an additional message targeted to college students: “Find it, fill it out, be counted”.

BQ: What are the primary goals of the census on campus initiative?

Torres: The Census on Campus Initiative seeks to educate, engage, and mobilize college and university students, administration, faculty, and parents so that in the 2010 Census, every individual is counted—once, and in the right place.

If you haven’t already filled out and sent in your census, do it.  Tim Meadows will not show up at your door if you don’t, so just do it.

Find it. Fill it out. Be counted.

USA TODAY lists key dates of the 2010 Census:

Feb 17-19: Advance letters are mailed to areas where Census forms will be delivered in person—mostly in rural areas.

March 8-10: Advance letters are mailed to most homes.

March 15-17: Forms are mailed to most homes.

March 22-24: Reminder postcards are mailed.

March 29-31: Workers count homeless people at shelters, soup kitchens/food vans, and selected outdoor locations.

April 1-10: Second forms are mailed to many homes that haven’t returned first one.

April 10- May 21: Workers distribute and collect forms in prisons, barracks, dorms and nursing homes.

May through July: Workers visit every home that has not returned a form.

Late December: State totals released.

February — March 2011: Detailed data released state by state.

  • Factsheet [PDF, 96kb]
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) [PDF, 485kb]
  • Brochure [PDF, 314kb]
  • Student Orientation Flyer [PDF, 584kb]
  • Parent Orientation Flyer [PDF, 588kb]
  • Counting College & University Residence Halls (Group Quarters) [PDF, 489kb]
  • Partnership Agreement [PDF, 456kb]

About Lindsey Frick

Lindsey Frick writes Ad Avenue, an advertising column, for the Quad.

View all posts by Lindsey Frick →

One Comment on “Find it, Fill it out, Be Counted: The Importance of the US Census”

  1. Thanks for the information about why the census is important. Another great article!
    Why is it done every ten years? Have they ever considered doing it every five years in our mobile society?
    Would that be too costly?

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