Sunday, April 4, 2010

And the Number of the Counting Shall Be. . . ?

Select Board Chair Stephanie O'Keeffe distributing census information on
behalf of Complete Count in front of Town Hall on Thursday afternoon.

Where we stand: this interactive map tracks participation, which as of today stands at 56%, with five midwestern states in the lead: Wisconsin (69%), Iowa (67%), Minnesota (66%), South Dakota (65%), Indiana (64%). As for Amherst, we're at 57%, barely above the national average.

As the Bulletin reminds us, undercounting—that is, not capturing data on all residents—is a problem not only among illegal immigrants or some communities of minorities and the poor (who may not understand the need for the Census or may fear interaction with governmental authorities), but also among students: obviously, a particular issue here in Amherst. Both the University of Massachusetts and Hampshire College have launched efforts to get students to participate.

About a year ago, I believe, I received a call from the Census Bureau, asking me to participate in a detailed survey to test the knowledge of Americans about the census. Detailed and long it indeed was. To my relief, I was generally very well informed about the Census, but I still missed a few minor points.

Most people are at least aware that the Census is a constitutionally mandated means of apportioning our legislative representation. Unless our count reveals 70,609 residents more than currently listed, our congressional delegation will drop from ten to nine members. Reason enough to participate, one would think.

But what most people don't know is the extent to which the Census count helps to determine our eligibility for numerous forms of aid. To cite but one example: As matters stand, Massachusetts annually receives $1,494 per resident from federal fund amounting to some $435 billion.

So, let's turn in those forms.

It's the best way to show that Amherst counts.

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