I’m not sure why it popped into my mind, but I yelled across the pasture to my husband, “Did we fill out the U.S. census?” He tilted his head as if to say, “We?” followed by an audible, “Yes.”
Honestly, I don’t think too much about filling out government surveys. My husband, on the other hand, will fill out online surveys, answer those annoying robocalls and actually talk to people on the other end. Me? I’d rather not be bothered. But he is a numbers guy. He understands the importance of the U.S. census and what it means to rural communities.
Need for response
Every 10 years, the Census Bureau counts every person who lives in the U.S. and five of its territories. The U.S. Constitution requires a census to determine the number of seats each state gets in the House of Representatives.
At the local level, the census also provides data for redrawing legislative districts. Fewer respondents from rural communities means our districts can be absorbed by larger ones with more urban voices. To keep that rural mindset, people must stake their claim to their counties and be counted.
But it is not only about representation. It is about money.
Participating in the census is one way to make sure your tax dollars come back to Missouri. State, local and federal lawmakers use census data to help determine how federal funds will be spent. These funds are used for infrastructure and public services such as roads, bridges, hospitals, health care clinics, emergency response and schools.
Failure to respond only hurts our communities. According to Missouri Census 2020, for every adult and child not counted in the census, our state will lose $1,300 in federal funds every year.
The University of Missouri’s Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems developed a tool to allow people to track the census progress. A map shows how many people responded in each county.
Courtesy of MU CARES
RURAL RESPONSE: The University of Missouri’s Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems created a map that tracks how many people responded to the 2020 U.S. census.
According to the above map, our rural response is behind the urban sect. Southeast and south-central Missouri are showing counties with well under a 50% response rate. However, there is still time.
The U.S. Census Bureau is allowing people to respond until Sept. 30. This is actually an entire month earlier than in the past.
New tools are making it quick and easy to complete the survey. Self-responding can be done online at my2020census.gov or by phone at 844-330-2020.
While you may have received an ID code in the mail, you do not need it to complete the census. All you need is a home address. For the questionnaire, you will be asked the birthdate of everyone living in your household. When you respond, make sure you count everyone who has lived with you since April 1, 2020, which includes college students.
But pay attention. The U.S. Census Bureau will never ask for your full Social Security number, bank account or credit card numbers. They also never solicit money or donations, or anything on behalf of a political party. Those are scams. Don’t fall for it.
According to the Census Bureau, it is “legally bound to keep your information confidential, and cannot release any identifiable information about you, your home, or your business, even to law enforcement agencies.” The law guarantees protection for your information, which is kept anonymous and used only to produce statistics.
If there is one survey farmers and ranchers should take the time to fill out, it is the U.S. census. So, go ahead and yell across the pasture to ask your spouse if your family is counted. Your rural community depends on it.