Is Everyone Accounted For?

Brianna Wu / Staff Illustrator

A deep dive of the 2020 Census and its potential impact on state funding

Many students of diverse backgrounds face challenges in various aspects of their life. For some, the quality of education can be a critical factor to securing success in their future careers. It can be difficult to find transportation to school resulting in being late or missing a class altogether. Textbooks could be outdated and in need of being replaced with new information. As rent increases, some students even face homelessness on top of balancing work and school.

It’s important to know what society struggles with. Every voice matters. That’s why the actions we take are significant, like participating in the 2020 Census. 

The census is an official count of the population for those who live in the United States, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. It counts how many people live in the same household as well as including those who are homeless. Workers of the census who gather this information are called census takers. They visit shelters, soup kitchens, and tented communities to gather answers from those who do not have a place to live.

The answers received from taking the census help legislation decide on where the federal funds will go. Certain areas contain a specific demographic. For example, a lot of college students may populate a large portion of one area or there are a lot of elderly who live in one particular place. These areas could be targeted to add more resources that are specifically tailored to that demographic. 

The structure of states and communities will be affected for the next decade. Billions of dollars will be distributed among our cities infrastructures, education, health care, housing programs, child care, and other services that affect our lifestyle.

For families who struggle to find affordable access to health care or who have the responsibility for children, these all can negatively impact one’s education. When all of these issues become too big to handle, it’s easy for students to give in to the outside pressure. The responses to the census can improve educational resources, public transportation, and on-campus housing. We can alleviate these problems by being accounted for as students in our population through the census.

People of color tend to suffer most from the harmful effects of being undercounted. This tends to happen due to language barriers, a person’s citizenship being questioned, and not having the funds to reach rural areas. Another reason is by moving the census online. Not everyone has access to the internet in their household. The only way to participate is through online, by phone, or by mail. However, Libraries can provide easy access to taking the census online, if anyone is unable to do otherwise.

Brianna Wu / Staff Illustrator

The struggles that ethnic groups face in their communities would only grow worse if undercounting continues to be a problem. Funds would be pulled from support programs like food stamps, education, and housing. Some students rely on similar programs to assist their families and to get by in an expensive economy that continuously raises the cost of living.

Pierce College student Marko O’Kelley relies on educational programs such as tutoring services, Financial Aid, and the College Bound program to achieve his educational goal. He plans to transfer to a four-year university once he’s done at Pierce.

“Financial aid is a good resource because I am currently living with my mom who is a single mother and she is struggling financially, so that means I also need to help her out financially with like, the rent or other things in the house that need to be helped with,” O’Kelley said.

O’Kelley is an advocate for the Hilltop Scholars Program, he hopes the funds will go towards similar programs within a huge community of youth for the next 10 years. “I feel like our youth are, and probably is, the gateway to a better future,” he said. “A lot of youth within a community or city would be inspired to do more because of gifts and talents that they have but hide because of the community that they live in.”

The long term effects of not participating in the census could result in a shortage of funds toward important sources for an increasing population. There may not be enough hospitals to take care of sickly patients, not enough schools for young children, and not enough houses for new families. Funds going toward care for the elderly, people who are disabled, and those living in poverty would not be accommodating to the number of people in these categories for the next 10 years. These resources may not be there in the future.

The importance of raising awareness about the census stems from the fact that not every voice is being heard. A rise in public awareness is needed for everyone to get well-informed and participate in the census. There is a potential risk that distributed funds will not have a strong focus as it should be in areas that need help. The demographics of students, especially for students of color, in regard to services provided by the community, would be negatively impacted for an entire decade. That is why every person counts.

The U.S. Census Bureau is responsible for sending out surveys by April 1. As it is part of the Constitution (Article 1, Section 2), everyone is required to participate by law every 10 years. The survey inquires about who you identify as and the relationship to others in the house, along with asking what place of residency you are for your home. According to Title 13 U.S. Code § 221, people can be fined up to $500 for not responding to the census completely. Census workers could show up at your door or call by phone to follow up. 

The amount of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives is determined by the population of people who currently occupy the state. The representatives create laws that affect the population. The amount of power in representation for specific groups will go down if not everyone is accounted for.

The census is an essential part of how well our government can take care of the community for the duration of 10 years. The actions we take now not only affect us, but future generations. It’s our civic duty to make sure we participate in the census.