Think you don't count? The Census Bureau thinks you do

Thursday, August 30, 2018

“In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to their own town to register.” (Acts 2:1,3)

Not every census has become part of a story repeated annually for 2,000 years, but that doesn’t mean every census isn’t important.

That goes for the upcoming 2020 census, more than two millennia after the one mentioned in the Christmas story.

Communities are gearing up to make sure the government counts them accurately because a lot of things depend on it.

For instance, Nebraska gets about $1,300 per person in federal funding. That means, if we don’t bother to get a thousand people counted, the state will lose out about $13 million in federal funding until the next census can be taken.

That funding comes in for things like educational programs, healthcare, law enforcement and highways. Without an accurate count, billions of dollars of federal money won’t go where they rightfully belong.

A census also shows us how our country is changing — the South and West showed the highest rates of population growth between 1990 and 2000 when 281.4 million people were counted.

Demographers want more information than what’s mandated in the Constitution, however, so the American Community Survey, using a sample of about 3 million households, collects data on income and poverty, employment status, education and other points.

That can help state and national lawmakers design new laws, for hot-button issues such as healthcare.

The Census Bureau is persistent, first sending out questionnaires, and then another if the first is not returned. Still, no word and a census worker will visit.

As a last resort, you can actually be fined $5,000 for refusing to participate in the decennial census.

If you spend any time on the internet, tons of information is probably already available in cyberspace if you know where to look.

The Census Bureau, however, insists personal information like names and addresses can never be released. Only summaries of data for geographic areas and political units are available on the Web, and census workers are carefully trained to handle the data responsibly.

If you feel like the government thinks of you as only a nameless number, perhaps the upcoming census can convince you that, yes, you are, indeed, important to somebody!

— Find out more at census.gov/2020census

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