With high stakes, state gears up for census

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By RILEY MURDOCK
Capital News Service
LANSING — It’s that time of decade again.
Though the next U.S. census won’t take place until 2020, Michigan and other states will soon begin the groundwork to prepare the country for its upcoming headcount.
With more than 327 million people to be counted, states will be responsible for confirming federal address lists and making sure new residents are identified and their addresses recorded.
Michigan employs a full-time state demographer, Eric Guthrie, dedicated to leading its census preparation efforts.
Guthrie serves as Michigan’s liaison to the US Census Bureau regarding the Federal and State Cooperative for Population Estimates, a collection of state-level agencies that review, update and verify population estimates.
“This is kind of an ‘all hands on deck’ type of situation, where the federal government is handling the actual nuts-and-bolts setup and everybody is working together to make sure the work itself that needs to happen” gets done, Guthrie said.
Among other purposes, census data is used to determine how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives. With a population of 9,883,640 according to the 2010 census, Michigan currently has 14 congressional districts.
The information also affects distribution of federal aid.
More than $589 billion was distributed between the states and Washington D.C. through “census-guided” programs in the 2015 fiscal year, according to the George Washington Institute of Public Policy.
The 2020 census will be the first census in which all forms can be filled out electronically, a major change that Guthrie said he hopes will not only make it easier for individuals to respond, but will cut costs as well.
“The census is a very important project that will affect every area for the next decade in terms of representation and funding,” Guthrie said. “Everything we can do to make sure it’s successful will be for the common good.”
The Local Update of Census Addresses Operation, or LUCA, a program allowing local governments to compare their address lists to the Census Bureau’s, will begin in February. LUCA will help to make sure the Census Bureau’s address list is as accurate as possible for the coming count, he said.
“Which is highly important, because the census is essentially a household survey,” Guthrie said.
“In order for the census to make sure it reaches every household, it has to have the most current address list possible.”
In addition to LUCA, Guthrie will begin a state-level review of Michigan’s address list. The state recently hired two full-time demographic analysts who will help with preparation efforts, he said.
“Every administrative unit in the state is of