Today I received a thin envelope from Census 2020 in my mailbox. It instructed me to respond by internet. It took me all of three minutes (I do live alone).
This is the first time the Decennial (10-year) Census has been able to take responses by internet. It can be done the next time you sit down at your computer, and the questionnaire won’t go to the bottom of your to-do pile or get mixed in with the recycling.
Best of all, responding before April 1 means that you won’t get a Census worker knocking on your door to get your participation later on (at taxpayers’ expense).
A population census of some kind has been required by governments since pre-Christian times. Mary and Joseph were responding to the Roman census when they traveled to Bethlehem. This Census is required by law, ever since Thomas Jefferson got the idea it might be good to know something about the citizens in the new United States of America. The Congress created the Census Bureau and established the Census in Article 1 of the Constitution.
The first national census was taken in 1790. Vermont’s census was conducted in 1791 after we had gained statehood.
Why respond to the Census?
As a former Census worker, I have heard the arguments against participating. Some people feel it’s “intrusive,” “nobody’s business,” “too personal,” an infringement on freedom, a distraction, and a pain in the neck.
But what is unique about the U.S. Census is that the data is not gathered from other records, such as the town office or some think tank. It’s gathered direct from ordinary people who are speaking for themselves. Any other method could be a violation of your privacy. Wouldn’t you rather the feds heard it from you instead of some other unreliable source?
But there are other compelling reasons.
Congress can’t realistically allocate funds, pass bills, and adequately represent us if they don’t know we’re out here and what our needs may be.
As the letter points out, billions of federal dollars for local communities at are stake – aid for highways, education, and other services.
Finally, each state’s representation in Congress depends on the population count in each district.
In that way it’s the next best thing to voting.
The letter is mailed to “Resident.” The Census doesn’t know who lives at your address. Last summer workers went around, street by street, updating the address lists and making sure the residence they thought was there, was actually there. But the questionnaire does ask for your name and telephone number, for quality control purposes. As Personally Identifiable Information (PII), it is protected by law.
The questionnaire does not ask for citizenship status, financials or bank account/credit card numbers. Household makeup includes everyone living with you (no names), and whether you own or rent.
Five minutes and it’s done! But those five minutes are worth billions of dollars.
Julia Purdy, Rutland