October 12, 2008
Count everybody

Former Texas State Demographer Steve Murdock, now the director of the US Census, sounds an alarm about that upcoming tasks.

Fear of the government in some communities after the Sept. 11 attacks and years of debate over immigration policy could create problems in getting an accurate count of the U.S. population in 2010, the director of the Census Bureau said last week.

"We have a lot of fear about government intrusion; we have a very contentious debate going on about immigration," said Steve Murdock, the agency's director.

To combat people's hesitancy, the bureau will work with local governments and organizations such as churches and community groups to make sure people understand what the census is and that the data won't be shared, Murdock said.

Participation in the nation's count every 10 years is required, but no one has been prosecuted for refusing to respond. Getting an accurate count of everyone who lives in the country is vital because it determines how congressional seats are apportioned and how federal funds are given out, among other things.

"A community that doesn't respond to the census doesn't exist," said New York City's chief demographer, Joseph Salvo.

Just so we're all clear, all kinds of allocations - various types of federal funds, Congressional districts, and so on - are based on population. Not population of citizens, population as a whole. A community that has a lot of uncounted immigrants will lose out as a result. It is very much in those communities' best interests to make sure every nose gets counted.

As long as I've mentioned Steve Murdock, I want to point you to this Observer article about him from 2005. Here's some words to live by:

By [20]23 or [20]24, we're talking about three out of every four Texas workers being non-Anglo. I like to say, well, if I, as an aging Anglo, forget that the quality of services I'm going to have--fire, police, and other services--depend on how well primarily the working-age population is doing, I really do so to my own detriment. Our fates are intertwined and related. How well our non-Anglo citizens do in Texas is how well Texas will do.

And as he says earlier in the piece, as Texas goes so goes the rest of the country. I hope we all remember this.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 12, 2008 to National news
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