The sense of the Census

| Staff Columnist

I would like to take a moment to wish you a happy belated Census Day. Okay, this holiday is not official, but merely a day that Congress and the Census Bureau decided to commemorate in order to encourage people to send in their Census forms. 

Here’s a shocker for those of you who know how in tune I am with politics: I haven’t managed to send in my form yet. Not for lack of trying, mind you, but I just plain haven’t received it yet. According to the Census Bureau’s Web site, while the majority of households received the form in March, those of us in the dorms will receive a slightly different version later this month. With the amount of federal funding St. Louis receives and Congressional representatives allocated to the state of Missouri dependant on the Census, it is a document worth filling out and returning.

We have all seen the commercials advertising the Census, and many of us may be vaguely aware of the implications of the Census beyond my brief summary. The fact is, most of us are going to be in St. Louis for another few years at least, so why not help our city get the amount of funding it deserves and needs? Undercounting has always been a problem with the Census, especially among college students and the younger generations in general. Of course, I have not seen a Census form myself yet, but it is supposed to be one of those things that are simpler than going to get a sandwich at Subway. Really, with everyone talking about how easy it is, why not just fill it out and drop it into the mailbox?

For those of you who are unaware, the Census is historically done every 10 years to reapportion the electoral districts per state for the House of Representatives. Since representation in the House is decided according to proportions of the population, it makes sense to recalibrate the distribution according to where people are. However, in more modern times, it has gained an additional significance. The Census now is at the heart of many federal funding formulas for determining how much federal aid goes to each state for programs such as Medicaid, unemployment and the highway fund.

There are also several misconceptions about the Census that should be addressed. Most important to us college students, we are supposed to fill out the form, not our parents. Of course, many people probably have their parents do it for them anyway, but the rule is that you fill out the census based on where you lived on April 1. Unless you only happened to move to Missouri and Wash. U. over the weekend, this includes you. 

As with much of American life, privacy concerns popped up regarding the census, spread mostly by commentators on FOX News and extreme conservatives, in particular Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn).

Come on, people, Facebook and Google know more information about us already than the Census asks for. In addition, the Census Bureau is required by law to keep your information private—even from other government agencies. With so much that St. Louis stands to gain from an accurate count, and Wash. U. in particular, since Census data influences the amount of grant money available among other things, just fill it out already. Well, fill it out whenever you get it, anyway; I’m sure that you can find five or 10 minutes sometime to do it.