April 4, 2010

Why You Should Turn in Your Census.

The Census: vital to social justice & fair representation.

A Guest post Matt Pizzuti of NewEraNews.org

Census Day was April 1. You’re not in trouble if you haven’t turned in your form yet, but you may get a knock on your door from a Census worker hoping to collect your information personally if you haven’t sent it in within a couple weeks.

There’s a lot of controversy and misinformation out about the Census and what the government has business knowing. But ultimately, being counted by the Census is as good for you as it is for your country.


Because the three main things the Census is used for are vital to social justice and your fair representation:

First and foremost, the Census informs the government how many elected representatives to assign to the area where you live. It will determine where the boundaries of legislative districts will go on both the state and Federal level. When people fail to fill out of the Census, it means they risk losing some of their influence as voters.

If, for example, every person in the entire city of Boulder, Co failed to turn in their Census forms (and if, by some freakish scenario, nobody in the Census Bureau followed up on the missing data), the government would record a huge drop in population for the area, and many of Boulder’s State House and Senate districts would cease to exist. Boulder would go from sending a handful of representatives to Denver each election, based on its population, to sharing a House and a Senate district with part of a nearby town like Louisville or Longmont.

Since Boulder tends to send Democratic representatives to Denver, that means that there would ultimately be fewer Democrats in Colorado’s state legislature. On the other hand, if everyone boycotted the Census forms in a city like Colorado Springs, it would likely result in there being fewer Republicans in the state legislature. So filling out the census does affect the politics of your state and the country.

Second, the Census tells the government how much of your tax dollars should be spent on programs in your area. When the government spends money or creates programs, the resources devoted to your county or neighborhood depend on the number of people living there. New York City gets a lot more federal money than Phoenix, Arizona does, and Denver gets more money than Pueblo. Also, the government knows how much it will have to invest in programs like Medicare or in higher education when it knows how many people are approaching the age of 65, or are reaching college age. Don’t let your town or age group get shortchanged by failing to fill out the Census!

Third, the Census helps sociologists and anthropologists track demographic changes in America. For example, how did we know that 12.8 percent of Americans were black, and 50.7 percent of Americans were female, in 2008? From data tracked by the Census Bureau. Making sure this information is accurate allows us to recognize who’s present in the United States. It also makes it easier to compare numbers with other data to find out if current government policies or economic circumstances are disadvantaging minority groups. That’s why so many leaders of minority groups are working so hard to make sure everyone in their community fills out the forms, or are fighting the federal government to create categories for them.

Certain groups of people are routinely under-counted by the Census; young people who change addresses often, people of color and people living in poverty are frequently missed and their numbers released by the Census Bureau are probably a few percentage points lower than they actually are. This means that those groups end up receiving less than their fair share of resources, have less than their fair share of representation, and are reported as a smaller group of people which makes them easier for the news or government to ignore.

So please fill out your Census form this year, and accurately report your age, gender and the race or ethnicity you identify with to help everyone recognize the full impact of diversity that already exists in America.

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