The Census: Why You Should Fill It Out
A few days ago driving the miles of dirt from my house to the curvy single laned county road, I found a sweet faced older woman contemplating a hill with dismay. She rolled down her window and flagged me down. “Excuse me,” she said, “I’m a census worker. Do you know where I can find …” and she named several addresses on my road.
I stared at her in disbelief.
I wanted to exclaim, “Are you crazy?” When I called several years ago to find out my address from the Humboldt County Agency in charge of that, the clerk whimpered, “I pray to God I retire before we get around to straightening out the addresses there.” She then let me choose…yes, CHOOSE, my own address. Which might explain why my address starts in the 3000 block and my neighbor’s starts in the 7000 block. In other areas, the houses go from 1234 to 1236 on the same side of the road effortlessly. Or at least the addresses climb higher or descend lower one after the other in a logical sequence. Here, they bounce. 3245 might be right before 7654 and right after 7559. The UPS doesn’t use them. The telephone repairman only uses them to humor his corporate entity. They both use country directions–ie “turn left after the school until you get to the “Y”in the road and take another left”..etc.
The series of numbers the Lost Census Lady gave me were meaningless. Almost no one bothers posting the addresses because they aren’t in any sensible order. She did manage to give me the CB handle of one of the addressees and I was able to direct her to that home but the rest were so much Urbanese from the land of Urbanites and I couldn’t help her. She told me that she lives near Honeydew and had to drive all the way out here (over an hour and a half drive) to deliver a handful of envelopes before she would run out of time. What a waste of money.
But what will make this even more of a waste of money is if my neighbors throw them out. I’ve heard several people say that they already did.
Whoa. Big Mistake. If you don’t want a census worker coming ’round May through July (which can be an awkward time for some folks) fill that sucker out now and send it in. When we found a census envelope hanging off a dead fir on our long driveway, we grabbed it up, filled it out (took Kevin about 10 minutes) and sent it back in. (It’s easy. Look here at the questions.)
Here’s why we filled out the form.
- We don’t want no strangers here no how. Seriously, we all in the hills love our privacy. The best way to keep strangers from wandering the hills looking for some simple answers to some questions is to fill out that form and mail it in. The census workers don’t come back then.
- We want our share of the $400 billion. Federal funds are allocated according to population amounts. Funds for schools, roads, etc. are based on this information.
- We want to be Represented in Congress.How many representatives an area gets in the California Congress and in the National Congress depends on the census data about how many people live where. This year California might lose a representative and Texas is likely to gain one. This will last til the next census is taken. Thus your census form can affect the future more cextensively than a vote for president can.
- We want the Government to waste as little money as possible. It costs big bucks to send a census worker out to ask the same questions that are easily answered on the piece of paper and mailed in. Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves said, “Here is something every family can do to help their government save money, and get an accurate Census at the same time. Mailing back your census form when it arrives will contribute to saving hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars…It’s a lot less expensive to get responses back by mail than it is to send census takers to knock on doors of households that failed to respond….It costs the government just 42 cents for a postage paid envelope when a household mails back the form…It costs $57 to send a census taker door-to-door to follow up with each household that fails to respond.”I’ll bet it costs a lot more than that up in these hills.
- It’s Safe! To quote their site, “All census responses are confidential; they are protected by law and not shared with anyone. By law, the Census Bureau cannot share respondents’ individually identifiable answers with anyone, including tribal housing authorities, other federal agencies and law enforcement entities. All Census Bureau employees take the oath of nondisclosure and are sworn for life to protect the confidentiality of the data. The penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000, imprisonment of up to five years or both.”
Did you already throw away your form? Don’t panic! On April 9th, new forms will be issued. You can quickly respond to that one and head off a census worker actually coming down your driveway in May and June.
Did you not get a form but want to be counted? Libraries and post offices will have forms that you can fill out.
If a census worker does show up, what should you do?
- First ask to see their ID. All census workers carry official government badges marked with just their name; they may also have a “U.S. Census Bureau” bag
- Note that the census taker will never ask to enter your home
- If you’re still not certain about their identity, please call the Regional Census Centers to confirm they are employed by the Census Bureau
- Answer the census form questions for your entire household (you must be at least 15 years old to answer questions) so that the census taker can record the results for submission to the Census Bureau
Census takers visit local homes several times to capture resident information for the 2010 Census. If you prefer, you can schedule a visit with your census taker. Should the census taker come when you are away from your home, they will leave a contact number. If a census taker has not visited your home or you have a question about your participation with the census, call your Census office.
The Census site is full of interesting little facts.You can search for any town or state’s population here.
You can sift through a plethora of Humboldt trivia and not so trivial facts here. Did you know that Humboldt, as of the 2000 census) had an average of 35 people per square mile? That 20% lived below the poverty line? That the average median household income in 2008 was $39,627?