This year, the U.S. Census Bureau is conducting the national Census that occurs every 10 years. The Census is a federally mandated headcount of everyone living within the United States.
The first Census was conducted in 1790 and the founding fathers deemed it valuable enough to make it a constitutional mandate.
Ragine Head, Census Complete Count Committee coordinator for East Lansing said, “The Census is very important to communities due to the data and funding which is collected. This goes to roads, highway fixtures, healthcare, education assistance and employment assistance.”
Head said “It is extremely valuable. We receive approximately $1,800 per person each year until the next Census. So that is about $18,000 per person until the next Census is conducted in 10 years. These are thousands of dollars that come into communities.”
The Census counts anyone residing in East Lansing on April 1, 2020. This includes year-round residents, students and international community members, regardless of citizenship.
“There are lots of students at MSU who think that since they vote at their home address, that it is the same as the Census, but it is not. They should be counted where you are as of April 1 and where you stay for a majority of the time, which for college students at MSU, ends up being East Lansing,” said Head. “Since they spend most of their time here, we want them to be counted here so we can spend those resources and allow them to be funneled back into the appropriate demographics.”
MSU student CJ Hayes said “I had no idea I was supposed to be counted in the area that I go to school rather than my hometown. I feel like that is pretty important information that not many students realize, since they think it is like voting.”
Another obstacle in getting an accurate count is the citizenship question, which looked like it was going to be added to the survey.
“We are trying hard to promote to the community that this question will not be on the survey and that the information you share will remain confidential 72 years after the Census is conducted,” said Head. “Your information will not be shared with third parties and is strictly for data purposes.”
Student Reid Burton said “I am really glad that they are not putting the citizenship question on the Census because I really thought that would have been an invasion of privacy.”
The process begins in East Lansing on March 12, when an online link will become active that allows individuals to complete the Census questionnaire. Individuals will also receive postcards in the mail in mid to late March.
“Each of these postcards contain a unique ID used to log on to the online survey. Four postcards are sent as reminders and for individuals who do not take the survey, there will be enumerators who are sent to come to your house of residence and do a follow-up with you about not responding,” said Head.
There is also an added administrative upload process in which students who have opted to have their information shared will be counted automatically through the MSU upload process. This counts only students living in residence halls and on-campus apartments such as the 1855 Place.
“We are strongly encouraging off-campus students to fill out their Census forms for their house. It is even possible that one person in the house can complete the form for you and all of your roommates,” said Head.
“We should participate and do what we need to do because, if you think about it, it is affecting someone who is years old and in a decade, they will be in high school. That can affect somebody greatly due to their resources,” said Antwan Joseph, academic coordinator at MSU.
The Census will be printed in English and Spanish and will be available online in 13 languages.
Example of the Census form: 2020 Census Informational Questionnaire