Added questions may deter Census participation

Published 7:00 am Thursday, February 15, 2018

With only two years remaining before the 2020 national census is conducted, many are concerned about how particular questions on the survey may affect participation rates.

According to coverage by the Associated Press, on Monday the District of Columbia’s State Attorney General as well as AGs in 16 other states, including Mississippi, are jointly “urging the U.S. Department of Commerce to not add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census.”

As mandated by the Constitution, a nation-wide census is held every ten years to keep track of the United State’s ever-growing population. According to information provided on the United States Census Bureau’s website, there are several key ways the statistical outcome of the census affects both local and national governments.

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For instance, the number of seats each state occupies in the U.S. House of Representatives is directly related to the outcome of the national census. Every year, approximately $400 billion in federal funding is distributed throughout the country for infrastructure and other related services, according to the website. If the population statistics of a community is thrown off even slightly, appropriate funding for schools, hospitals etc., may not be available.

Leaders in many states are concerned that if a question is added to the census asking whether a person is a legal resident or not, less people may be inclined to participate – throwing off national population totals.  According to Census Bureau regulations as well as Title 13 of the U.S. code, any personal information gathered by the national census cannot be disclosed or used against any individual. Every employee at the Bureau is sworn to secrecy.

“The penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment of up to 5 years, or both,” the Bureau’s website states.

Despite these assurances, a fear of deportation will undoubtedly lead many to avoid participating in the 2020 census if the controversial question is included in the upcoming count. Because accurate population statistics are so important on a local and national level, steps should be taken to ensure everyone participates – even if that means leaving out questions regarding citizenship.