By Chris B. Bennett
The Seattle Medium
There is good news and there is bad news as it relates to the 2020 Census, which is currently in the self-reporting phase. During the self-reporting phase, the census relies on the citizenry of the United States to voluntarily report — either online, by phone or by mail — information related to the number of people who live in your household. After the self-reporting period is over census workers will canvass neighborhoods all across the country trying to get household information on the households that did not self-report.
The good news is that the self-response rate in Washington State is nearly 52%, which is above the national average of 46.7%. And in King County the self-reporting rate is at 56%. The bad news is that the lowest response neighborhoods in Washington State are in predominately African American, Hispanic, and Asian neighborhoods. Which means that these communities can run the risk of not receiving the resources that they desperately need to flourish until the next census takes place in 2030.
What is the census you ask?
Every 10 years, the U.S. conducts a census count of every person living in the United States and five U.S. territories. The count is mandated by the Constitution and conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency.
Have you ever wondered why schools in certain neighborhoods are underfunded, have buildings in need of repair and lack basic resources like textbooks and computers? Have you ever wondered why certain neighborhoods only have access to one grocery store, while other neighborhoods have two or three? Or why it takes you an hour and three bus transfers to get to work, while your co-worker, who lives further away than you do, takes one bus and gets to work in 30 minutes? Well, it may have something to do with the census.
In addition to counting the number of people in the country, the census provides critical data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and many others use to provide daily services, products, and support for you and your community. Information from the census will be used to determine how much federal funding will be available for the next 10 years for schools, special academic programs, head start programs, affordable housing, roads, government assistance program for seniors, kids and moderate to low-income families, and more.
Let’s take a look at the numbers. If you live in a neighborhood with a 45% response rate to the census and then when census workers canvass the neighborhood and you and your neighbors all undercount your household by two people, a 40% undercount in a five person household, and the more affluent neighborhood not too far way has a 75% response rate, and 90% of their households give an accurate household count. Which neighborhood do you think will get a new school building, new pavement for their roads, and street lights? Which neighborhood will get more bus routes headed towards working areas like downtown and to places like stores, hospitals and pharmacies?
Now, there are those among us who will give you bad information about the census. There will be those who may tell you that it is the government’s way of trying to keep tabs on you, or that its just another way to track down people with warrants or who owe child support. None of this is true.
Historically, African Americans have been undercounted in the census and we see where that has led. It’s time for the African American community to stand up and be counted in the census. It’s time for people to stop ignoring the mail, ignoring the calls and ignoring or giving misleading information to census workers who may show up at your door.
If you want affordable housing to be affordable to you and others whose financial means are equivalent to that of your own, fill out the census. If you want your kids to have access to computers and iPads at their school, fill out the census. If you want to have businesses in your neighborhood owned by people who look like you, fill out the census. If you want to have political representation by people who share the same ideology as you, fill out the census. If you don’t want someone knocking at your door and asking you questions about your kids, your spouse and everyone else who lives in your household, fill out the census. If you rent your home, live in an apartment complex, and are between the age of 18 and 118… fill out the census.
If you would like to see the resources that you feel that you deserve in your neighborhood, city, county and/or state please take the time to fill out the census. If you’re not counted, the resources that should be allocated for you and your family could be re-allocated to someone else who took the time to fill out theirs.
It’s time to stop ignoring the census, and allowing decision-makers, who rely on census data, to ignore you! Today, now more than ever we live in a data driven society, and you have to be included in that data if you want to be on the receiving end of the solution to the problem. It’s time to self-report your household’s information to the census, and make sure that you and your family have access to the resources that you all deserve.
Through the eyes of an ink barrel, may peace be unto you!
Chris B. Bennett is the award-winning Publisher and Editor of The Seattle Medium newspaper. You can follow him on Twitter @The_inkbarrel.