Photo by Will Toppin

U.S. Census recruits students

Over the past few weeks, Census recruiters canvassed heavily on Lewis & Clark’s campus in an effort to recruit workers for the 2020 U.S. Census. April 1 is National Census Day, marking the deadline for people across the U.S. to answer 10 census questions, with the goal of accurately counting every person living in the country and collecting demographic data. The census has traditionally been taken via paper forms, but the 2020 Census will be the first to allow online and telephone responses.

Over the last two weeks, workers from the U.S. Census Bureau have tabled between classes in the J.R. Howard academic building and on Feb. 18  in J.R. Howard 124 gave a presentation on the expansive impacts of the census on our system of democracy as well as hosted multiple events. This is all in an effort to recruit enumerators (census-takers) to work for the Bureau from mid-March to late July.

As the recruiters have emphasized in various forms around campus, the job would pay $18 to 20 dollars an hour for about thirty hours a week, with flexible hours. The Census Bureau makes the case that workers play an important part in history, as the census is key to allocating federal funding and congressional seats. Oregon is predicted to gain a new seat in the House of Representatives, moving from five to six congressional seats, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Each person counted in Oregon is expected to net the state $3,200 in federal funding, according to Census Bureau statistics. Federal dollars are used to fund Oregon Medicaid, federal student loans, highway construction and a number or other public service projects. 

The census asks 10 questions of respondents: address, phone number, count of each person at the address, name,  gender, age and date of birth, race, hispanic, latino or spanish origin, whether the respondant lives elsewhere and relationship status.

There is not a citizenship question on the census. Though the Trump administration had pushed for the question, they abandoned this effort on July 2, 2019, a week after a Supreme Court ruling blocking the question and previous protests using the hashtag #CountMeIn. 

According to The New York Times, “The decision was a victory for critics who said the question was part of an administration effort to skew the census results in favor of Republicans.” 

The census data can be self-reported online, by phone, on paper or in-person. April 1 is used as a reference day for the census, but self-response begins March 12. The U.S. Census Bureau will initiate “non-response follow-ups” beginning in April, by sending workers to addresses that have not yet reported in. Follow-ups will continue until July 24.

“(Enumerators are) going to get a device, maybe a smartphone, maybe a tablet — that’s where you’re going to get all your assignments,” Beth Federici, a recruiting assistant for the 2020 Census, said. “They’re going to say, ‘Go here, these are the houses on this street that people did not fill the census out. You will bring (the census up) on the tablet and … they’ll answer the questions.”

Historically, the census has faced issues reaching certain communities.

Jon Coney is a partnership specialist at the Census Bureau. He and his team do outreach to various communities — as part of this effort, he gave a presentation on the effects of the census and how to get involved on Feb. 18.

“There’s some fear out there in a lot of Hispanic communities about what’s going on in national politics right now,” Coney said, also identifying a problem in counting migrant laborers. “People are moving around a lot, and just not staying in one place.”

“Renters tend to be hard to count,” Coney said. “They tend to be a little bit more transitory, maybe not tied to their community as much as a homeowner is, for instance.”

Coney explained that language barriers and several other obstacles make gathering census data difficult. 

 “There’s a lot of fear of law enforcement — immigration status and that kind of thing,” Coney said. “To a lot of people, a census worker showing up is no different from an ICE agent showing up or something like that.”

Coney explained that none of the census data is tied to individuals when reported.

 “The information that the bureau gathers is all only recorded in aggregate form,” Coney said. “Only some of that general (aggregate) information is actually released publicly or made available publicly or to other agencies, etc. All the personally identifiable information — your name, age, sex and all that kind of stuff — is under lock and key. That’s something that’s very, very important — especially in today’s world.” 

Census records are confidential until 72 years after each census day.

LC students who live on campus will not individually take the census. College residence halls are classified as “group quarters.”

“Someone from the Census Bureau will come here to Lewis & Clark, talk to the (head of Campus Living or the dean of students). All of the families and students have reported all of their information to the college when they enroll here … and that information will all be turned over in bulk, so you guys don’t have to do anything at all.”

Students living off campus will have to respond themselves.

“Five notices will go to them to invite them to respond and go online,” Coney said. “And if they don’t, for whatever reason, that’ll then get an enumerator visit probably.” 

Notices will only be sent to physical addresses, not post office boxes. Students living off-campus with P.O. boxes will be required to self-report in another manner, such as online or by telephone.

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