It’s 2010, and that means it’s time for another U.S. Census. It’s time to be counted, so the government knows how many of us there are, and where the most of us live. There are thousands of worry-warts and conspiracy theorists out there who think this is some dastardly plot so our government can keep an eye on all of us, but that’s not the case. I interviewed Michelle Garcia in the U.S. Census Bureau’s Macomb County, Michigan office, and she assured me that the information you provide is not ever, EVER used in prosecution. And it’s used for a lot of GOOD, actually… here are the top reasons she shared with me to participate in the U.S. census.
1. To Make Sure You Get Your Share
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You and your family deserve to be counted as part of a unique household and part of your community. If a census shows that there are fewer people living in an area, policy makers don’t know that you just decided not to participate — they assume the numbers are correct and make decisions on how to spend tax dollars… FEWER tax dollars, if there are fewer people! So make sure you get your share by being counted!
2. To Make Sure Your Community Gets Its Share
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The federal government distributes much of its $400 billion dollars each year based on census data. Infrastructure, like hospitals, roads and bridges, senior centers, schools, and the like are all built and maintained depending on how many people live in each area. When you participate in the census, you’re making sure your community gets its share of all of these things, and more!
3. For Future Generations
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When I was working on my family tree (which I have been able to trace back to the early 14th century, in Wales), I came across my great-grandfather’s census from 1930 and it was very informative. Back then, the census was done by hand by door-to-door census takers, and they recorded information about the household that we don’t collect now, like how many radios were in the household, and what sort of work everyone in the household did. It’s fascinating to think that someday, your great-grandchildren might look at your census information to learn more about you!
4. Because It’s Secure
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If you’ve ever had your identity stolen, you know how much of a hassle it can be to repair the damage it can do to your credit. Some people are afraid to participate because they think that somehow the data can be used to steal their identity, or something even worse. Not true. The data you share is secure.
5. Because It’s Your Civic Duty
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Just like voting, or registering for the draft (if you’re a guy), participating in the census is another way to do your civic duty. Did you know that the census data is also used to help draw district lines?
6. Because It Could Be Used in Future Studies
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Over the years, the data collected in the census has been used in studies to prove that certain groups were being targeted for unfair treatment, or were exposed to dangerous environments because they were low-income. Without the census data, these studies, and their subsequent corrective actions, would not be able to happen.
7. It’s Fast and Easy, so Why Not?
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Over the years, I’ve known about a dozen people who have boycotted the census as a political statement, and while I respect their freedom to do as they choose, I tend to dismiss their claims as bordering on silly because I can’t see how it will make any sort of difference for them not to be counted. It’s free, it only takes a few minutes, and entire communities stand to gain from it, so why not just participate?
I expect that when the census taker knocks on your door, or calls you to set an appointment, you’ll be delighted to share your information now that you know it’s safe. I know I will! Why do you participate (or not participate) in the census? Please tell me!
Top Photo Credit: scottdunn