Another Decade, Another Census

By Amanda Li, Clarion Staff Reporter

Every ten years, the United States Census Bureau conducts a survey that counts every resident in the United States, called the Census. The Census is conducted to help estimate the amount of federal funding to be distributed in each state and community, which will improve the quality of life. The 2020 Census will ask nine questions, with an additional seven for each person living with you. These questions include the number of people living in the house, if the house is owned or rented, telephone number, name, sex, age, and ethnicity. The Census can be completed online, by phone, or by mail and you can participate in the 2020 Census beginning on April 1st. 

The information collected from the Census will be used to determine how more than $675 billion of federal funding is distributed to states and communities each year. Federal funding is used to pay for school breakfasts and lunches, highway construction, assistance to needy families, environment improvement, etc. Where and what the federal funding will be used for will depend on the results of the Census. Ideally, it will be used to improve areas with high poverty and population, but in order for this to happen, the Census needs as many responses as possible to maintain accuracy and ensure that the underprivileged receive the federal funding. 

Federal funding is not the only benefit. By knowing where certain groups live, businesses will know where to build stores, offices, and factories, all of which will create more jobs. 

“It’s easier to justify a project if you know for a fact that people need it.” says Tom Whitaker, student teacher for Brett Williams’ AP Government class at John F. Kennedy High School.

Furthermore, awareness of the population will ensure the safety of residents because local authorities will then know where to patrol. A recount of the population will allow for a readjustment in the number of seats in the House of Representative, which creates and passes federal laws. 

The number of seats in the House of Representatives per state is determined by the total population of each state. The higher the population, the greater the amount of representation in the House of Representatives. 

“It is necessary for elected officials to accurately serve their population.” says Tatiana De La Sancha, an AP Government student at John F. Kennedy High School. 

If the state of California has the highest population out of all the other states, it is only fair for Californians to have the most representation. Say if Californians are the majority of the United States population, but none of the Californians do the Census and aren’t counted. This will result in having few representatives for a large population. So, if the large population of Californians wanted a law to be passed, it would all depend on the decisions of the few representatives, which could get overwhelmed by the representatives of the other states. 

The uses of the Census results are broken down into categories. Photo courtesy of the United States Census Bureau.

“This is how districts are determined, how the number of seats of representatives are determined, and on the state level, resources are distributed based on the numbers, public services are hampered by not having accurate numbers.” explains Williams, teacher of economics and AP government at John F. Kennedy High School. “We might lose congressional representatives to other states.”

Non-participation is not free of consequences. Failing to answer or intentionally giving a false answer to any census question can result in a fine, according to federal law. Returning an incomplete census questionnaire may lead to a phone call or an in-person visit to your home by workers from the Census Bureau, which hired more than 600,000 door-knockers to follow up with households that did not respond to the 2010 census. Furthermore, improperly completed census questionnaires will result in inaccurate data, which is disadvantageous to states needing more representation, but more so to those who have a poor quality of life. 

The 2020 Census will accept responses beginning on April 1st. Consider the information above to get a better understanding on the Census. The Census benefits everybody by  allowing your community to get its fair share of the more than $675 billion per year in federal funds spent on schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other vital programs.

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