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July 30, 2019

Libraries Count and Can Help Count You in Census-2020

Libraries Count and Can Help Count You in Census-2020

By: Pam Lamberger

One of the first things we teach our kids is to count; one, two, three, four… numbering and tallying are important skills. When we count items or people systematically, the numbers generate statistical data. We can use this data to study various phenomena and to assist with decision-making. Perhaps the largest counting project in our country is the decennial census, where our government attempts to count every single person currently living in the United States at the start of each new decade.

As 2019 proceeds into its third quarter, the arrival of 2020 will launch a new decade and the initiation of yet another U.S. Census. This process has taken place every ten years since 1790 when Thomas Jefferson ordered the first enumeration of the country’s population.

Why should you care about the census and what impact might it have if the count overlooks a few of us? According to the American Library Association, “If the census misses people, undercounted communities won’t get fair funding for critical programs and officials won’t have the reliable information they need to make decisions.” How much money are we talking? A recent article in the Indianapolis Business Journal states that Indiana’s share of the annual $800 billion available in federal funding comes to $18 billion – $2,710 per person every year! In addition, census numbers drive our federal representation in Congress, the Electoral College and in state and local governments too. A lot is at stake and every Hoosier should do their part to participate. In 2010, Indiana had a 79% participation rate, tying for third place overall with Iowa!

Beginning on March 12, each American household will receive a mailed invitation to complete the census. For the first time, residents will be encouraged to respond to the census online. Other options will be by phone or by requesting a paper questionnaire to complete and return by mail. Your estimated time commitment should only be about 10 minutes. Those who have not responded in some way by May 2020 will receive a personal visit from a Census Bureau staff member.

The nation’s public libraries are willing partners in helping to ensure that the census is successful and complete.  Libraries exist to serve the public and federal grants help underwrite the cost of library internet connectivity so they have a stake in the process. Computers and free internet access are available at public libraries across the U.S. for those who lack these resources at home. Purdue University’s Center for Regional Development says there is no computing device in 14.5% of Indiana homes and 20% do not have broadband access.

If you are in the market for temporary employment, the Census Bureau is recruiting for 25,000 positions in Indiana alone. Some positions are being filled now and others will be in the months ahead. The average pay will range from $15 – $19 per hour. To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen, age 18 or above, have a valid Social Security number and pass a background check. To see Census recruitment information for 2020, visit their website.

One controversial question remains off the 2020 census – that of citizenship status. Though Title 13 of the U.S. Code protects the confidentiality of an individual’s responses, fear of repercussions might discourage some from participation if the question appears. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled against the Trump administration’s directive to ask about citizenship; printing of the forms is currently under way. Instead, President Trump recently issued an executive order instructing federal agencies to report citizenship data from existing records. This should remove the shadow of fear from Census 2020 and pave the way for a thorough and accurate count.