Census 2020: A Census for the History Books!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Logo for https://census.nc.gov/

While much of the United States is under a stay-at-home order and practicing social distancing due to coronavirus, Americans are receiving their 2020 Census notification letters and forms asking for their participation in the count. As we grapple with a virus that has changed our routines and movement for the foreseeable future, many may ask why they should participate. Look no further than to our current situation with the pandemic to understand why a U.S. Census count is so important.

What is the U.S. Census and Why Does It Matter?

The U.S. Constitution spells out the role of the U.S. Census in Article One, where it defines it as a tool to apportion congressional representation to the states; however, through the years it has become a vehicle for so much more. Over the years, the Census has changed with the times to ask questions of the American people that can help lawmakers make important decisions and gauge the well-being of its citizens. Take, for example, the 1940 Census. In 1940, President Roosevelt wanted to measure the effectiveness of the New Deal programs, so on that year’s form, the Census Bureau asked, in question numbers 21 and 22 respectively, “Was this person AT WORK for pay or profit in private or nonemergency Govt. work during week of March 24-30?” and “If not, was he at work on, or assigned to, public EMERGENCY WORK (WPA, NYA, CCC, etc.) during week of March 24-30?” That way, the effectiveness of public involvement in the New Deal programs could be measured by counting how many people participated in relief work. Though it is far too early to gauge how COVID-19 will ultimately impact the 2020 Census, this is the kind of information the Census can gather according to the needs of the time.

For Americans today, the U.S. decennial Census also creates a baseline so that lawmakers and planners will know how many people in their communities are being impacted by job loss, the closing of schools, and how many may need additional healthcare, hospital equipment, and food. Without these numbers and this count, no one would ever know how to make important plans and decisions that affect us all right now and in the immediate future. This is crucial during the coronavirus pandemic. While it will take months to tally the 2020 Census, the baseline created 10 years ago in the 2010 Census will help lawmakers, emergency responders, and lawmakers right now.

Participate in the U.S. Census

Not only has the timing of this Census been unusual but so are the methods of gathering responses. This is the first Census in our history where people can respond in one of three ways: mail, telephone, or through the Internet. Never have Americans had so many easy ways to respond. That said, please do not wait. Open your questionnaire and respond by Census Day, April 1st, 2020 to help yourself and your community in this time of uncertainty. We don’t know what the future holds and how the numbers may be used in the future. After filling out your Census questionnaire, check the response rates by state or your community at: https://2020census.gov/en/response-rates.html.

North Carolina’s 2020 Census Efforts

The state of North Carolina is involved in a variety of safe efforts to promote Census Day and getting an accurate census count amidst the current coronavirus pandemic and social distancing. On April 2nd, tune in to UNC-TV at 7pm EST for a Panel Discussion on North Carolina and the 2020 Census and learn more about U.S. Census efforts and the challenge and importance of getting an accurate count in the state. Find your local UNC-TV station here: https://bit.ly/3dILHLh. Find a special treat to all of our patrons (a free Census-themed bookmark!) located here: https://bit.ly/3bG0Qvc

Also, be sure to follow @nccensus on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and use the hashtag #MakeNCCount and encourage your NC family and friends to complete their U.S. Census questionnaires. 

Have Questions?

Have questions on how the U.S. Census or how to respond to your questionnaire? See answers to Frequently Asked Questions here: https://bit.ly/2UNey8A
Pass the word and don’t wait! Our future is in your hands! Make NC Count!

Author: 
Beth Hayden, Reference Services Supervisor