2020 Census urges involvement from ‘hard to count communities’

Students among lowest represented

Written By Dara Collins, Editor-in-Chief

Pennsylvania’s second lady, Gisele Fetterman, tweeted on Jan. 13 that she will visit all the “hard to count” counties in the state to explain why this year’s census is important.

“If you live in this state, you matter to me and you need to be counted,” Fetterman’s tweet said.

According to the United States Census Bureau website, the census is mandated by the United States Constitution, and its results determine federal funding for communities and states every year and how many seats a state has in Congress.

Fetterman will travel to Philadelphia and Centre, Erie, Allegheny, Lancaster and Luzerne counties over the next couple of months to spread awareness of the importance of the census.

According to an article on Inside Higher Education’s website titled “Getting Out the Count” by Greta Anderson, these hard to count communities mentioned by Fetterman include undocumented and legal immigrants, non-English speakers, low-income citizens and college students.

At the time of the last decennial census, most traditional-age college students were anywhere between 8 to 12 years old. Now at 18 to 22 years old, America’s college students are encouraged more than ever to participate in the 2020 Census Bureau count.

Anderson’s article explains a number of challenges that come with this year’s census and student involvement.

The first challenge discussed is the act of simply informing that students, as a majority, did not participate in the last census.

To help inform communities about the 2020 Census, Complete Count Committees exist across the country to create awareness. Pennsylvania’s regional CCC is in Philadelphia and can be reached at [email protected].

According to the United States Census Bureau website, CCC’s reach their communities in many ways, including kickoff meetings, rallies, parades and unity youth forums.

The article cites Carah Ong Whaley, associate director of the James Madison University Center for Civic Engagement, when mentioning the different factors that influence student views of the census.

Misinformation exists on social media, misconceptions arise on how students are counted and propaganda campaigns cause mistrust between students and the government.

For instance, the Trump administration’s proposal to add a question about citizenship status, which was struck down by the Supreme Court, caused students and immigrants to question the government’s motives behind the count even though answers are kept anonymous by law.

Another challenge is the census only offers male and female option for respondents, and this would exclude identities in the LGBTQ+ community. Whaley, a commissioner for Virginia’s Complete Count Committee, told Virginians to “skip the questions if it makes them uncomfortable.”

These concerns caused some to consider boycotting the census, but Kell Crowly, a junior at Georgetown University who participated in the Inside Higher Ed article, says a boycott would be counterproductive.

Over 20 states in the United States provide significant funds to help boost census counts. Pennsylvania is growing at a slower pace than other states, according to current census projections, and is expected to lose a congressional seat in 2023, as reported by WTAE on Jan. 13.

To avoid these concerns and educate students on why their count matters, students can find common questions and background information on the census at the Census Bureau website. The website explains the census form as “a simple questionnaire about yourself and everyone who is living with you on April 1, 2020.”

The 2020 Census will count the population in all 50 states, Washington D.C. and five United States territories.

The website lists examples of questions and explanations behind the questions that exist on the census form to prepare respondents.

For instance, questions include, “How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment or mobile home on April 1, 2020” or “Were there any additional people staying here on April 1, 2020, that you did not include in Question 1?”

State residents can respond to the census form by mail, phone or online. Most census invitations should be mailed out by Apr. 1. In May, households who have not responded will be visited by census takers. Counts will be submitted in December.