Next spring, the once-in-a-decade tradition of counting every person living in the United States will be in full gear as residents fill out the 2020 Census.
Before the counting begins, the U.S. Census Bureau and other volunteers are fanning out across the country to explain the process and why it’s crucial — with the data tied to federal funding and Congressional representation — to get an accurate count.
For the first time, the form can be completed online or by phone, although residents still have the option of mailing in the traditional packets.
“It’s a new process for everyone and I think there’s some concern of what does that look like in process,” said Wabash College associate political science professor Shamira Gelbman, who is teaching a class about the census.
Companies and foundations partner with the bureau to raise awareness of the census and explain how local communities benefit from the data. Nearly $700 billion in grant funding depends upon population figures and the census determines the number of seats a state is allotted in the House of Representatives.
The bureau is actively recruiting workers to assist with the count, seeking to hire 500,000 people nationwide.
Census workers will be reaching out to families with children under the age of five, renters, Hispanics and homeless people who are less likely to be counted. Though less common, seniors in nursing homes and college students who live on campus are sometimes counted twice.
Gelbman’s students are also helping get out the word. The class has met with community leaders to discuss outreach to underrepresented populations, built materials for an upcoming census exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Montgomery County and prepared fliers, brochures and how-to videos that will be posted online.
The Census Bureau will begin mailing instructions to most households in March, with field workers going door-to-door in the summer to follow up with residents who didn’t respond.