The Census Bureau mailed out its forms this week (to everyone who is groaning, say it with us,“Yay!”). You may wonder why the Census bothers with the tedious task of counting everyone — yes, everyone — in the United States every 10 years.
The reason is because an accurate count of the population forms the basis of many important political, economic, and social decisions made that will end up affecting our daily lives. For instance, Census data determines the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives. In the next election, some states may lose seats and some may gain a few — this may tilt the scales in favor of certain hot-button issues. Also, keep in mind that state and federal funds are allocated with population in mind.
How will this affect Asian Americans and other people of color? The 2000 Census data states that Asian Americans make up 4.3 percent of the population, a 63 percent increase since 1990, making us one of the fastest growing racial groups in the United States.
This is an important fact, both in terms of state and federal funding, and also in terms of business. Joan Naymark, director of research and planning at Target, told The Economist, “We use census data every day to make business decisions. The 2010 census is incredibly important to us.” The Economist cited two examples: results of the 2000 census prompted Target to offer more ethnic hair products as well as children’s books in Spanish in Washington, D.C., to reflect the population shift.
If all of that hasn’t convinced you to fill out the Census form, here are six more reasons:
1. Filling out the form is easy. This is one of the shortest form in history, just one page with 10 questions.
2. You will avoid an uncomfortable conversation with the census taker who will show up at your door if your form was not filled out completely and sent back.
3. You will save money. Congress has budgeted a whopping $7.2 billion this year for the census. Most of that money is not spent on printing forms and mailing them — it’s spent on the salaries of employees the Census hires to go knock on doors if people don’t send in their forms. Save the government — and your-tax-paying-self — money by mailing back the form. For every 1 percent increase in mail responses, $80 to $90 million is saved.
4. The U.S. Census won’t ask for your social security number. It will only ask for the names of everyone living in your home, whether you own it, your phone number, date of birth, and race, among other things. Please fill out all the questions because you are required to by law. If you don’t answer all of the questions, you may face a $100 to $500 fine.
5. Your information is safe. By law, the data collected is not shared with any other organization. Not the IRS, FBI, CIA, or INS.
6. You will make U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, who is chair of the U.S. Bureau’s 2010 Census Advisory Committee, proud.
How to help the Census out:
1. If you have a student living on a college campus, tell your child to mail in his or her census form. For some reason, college kids have a tough time filling out a form and putting it in the mail.
2. Count everyone. Note that the Census does not ask about citizenship — this is because it does not care if you’re an illegal alien. If you are, you are totally safe. The Census just wants to count every single person who is in the country. ♦