What would make you mad enough to pick up and throw a metal patio table at a woman? Acceptable answers might be:
• ‘She was threatening me with a gun.’
• ‘I caught her trying to abduct my child.’
• perhaps even ‘She was a zombie and was trying to eat me.’
One answer not making the list: ‘She was a census worker and wanted to talk with me.’
And simply asking to talk with a woman working in her garden is exactly what got that aforementioned patio table thrown at Sherri Chesney. As a census worker, Chesney, 46, visited the woman in an attempt to get the gardener to fill out this year’s US Census form. Thankfully Sherri ducked and was unhurt. She also no longer works for the census.
Sadly, this was far from an isolated incident. An article in the June 20th edition of The Washington Post states that this year alone, the ‘Bureau has tallied 379 incidents involving assaults or threats.‘ This is more than twice as many as during the 2000 Census. Some of these incidents can surely be chalked up to an irrational fear of strangers, mental illness or just an overblown fear that individual privacy is being compromised by acknowledging one’s existence. Many more, however, are a direct result of deep-seated hatred and distrust of all things government. All of which begs the question, ‘What is the census and how does the government use the information?’
What is the census?
This one’s simple. The official U.S. Census is described in Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution of the United States which reads [emphasis added:]“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.”
How is census information used?
Census information is used, among other reasons, to:
• draw state legislative congressional district lines
• calculate the distribution of federal funds for programs like Medicaid
• plan school locations
• figure out where roads should be built
• identify population trends that can help identify future needs
A valid question: If the government doesn’t know where its people are located, then how can it ever hope to provide the services that those same people have come to expect from their government … and in many cases, upon which they’ve come to depend?
You do not need to know the secret handshake to gain access to census data.
Did you know the information collected by the census is compiled and made available to anyone who wants to see it? Simply point your web browser to http://factfinder.census.gov/ and get ready to have some fun. On these pages you’ll be able to find answers to nearly any question you can think up about the US and it’s people … all 309,548, 978 of them (as of this writing!) Curious about your own town? All that information is there, just waiting for you to grab it.
Census takers — at least those who have not quit in fear — will be out knocking on doors through July. Please do not follow the lead of one Marion, Ohio, homeowner who elected to beat the census taker with a metal bat. Remember, no matter what your political leanings, when you get right down to it, we’re all in this together. The 2010 Census is simply a way for us to figure out how many folks actually encompass that ‘all.’
For more information about the 2010 US Census, visit the Census 2010 website.