Participate in the Census 2010 Exercise

In the early decennial censuses — the first one was in 1790 — the purpose was for apportioning the number of seats in the House of Representatives in the Congress for each state. It was, and still is, based on the state’s populations in relation to the whole nation’s population.

Consider this: As a percentage of the nation’s population, Pennsylvania’s population has decreased from 6.9% in 1900 to 5.0% in 2000, to 4.1% in 2008. With the total number of House of Representatives in the US Congress held at 435, this has resulted fewer number of House members elected from Pennsylvania.

Over the years, countless government agencies at the federal, state and local levels, nonprofits, and private businesses have come to rely heavily on the census data for their many decisions. For example, the federal gov-ernment annually distributes to states around $400 billion grant monies based on the states’ population demographics (number, age, gender, race, income/poverty data and others).

State/local governments use the same census data for drawing the boundaries of electoral districts, funding monies for libraries, building/widening roads and bridges and schools, mass transit decisions, and deploying ambulances, police cars and fire trucks for managing crises.  Private businesses use the same census data for locating their offices, warehouses, hospitals, and developing product and marketing strategies… … …

This is where your participation in the US census becomes critical.  This year, in March/April, all of you will receive a simple census form containing 10 easy questions.  Please complete this form and mail it without any delay.

But there are more reasons why you should do it. At a personal level, being an very small ethnic minority, we need to know  where we stand in the big picture of the region’s/nation’s demographics. Often, many of us have an exaggerated idea of our presence. More on this in a separate article in a future issue.

In the 2010 census, the US Census Bureau counts people tracing their heritage to India as a distinct group under the category Asian Indian.

If your roots are in India, remember to check the box against Asian Indian on Question 9 in the census form.  Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Nepalis and Sri Lankans need to check the box Other Asians and write their place of origin in the box.

An important point:  When you fill out the census form, list all people living in your household irrespective of their legal status – citizens, immigrants, students from India, visitors, workers on H1B visa, or even undocumented people.

The census form does NOT ask information on the legal status of the person. The Census Bureau’s mandate is to take a snap shot on the head count and gather the statistics only around the number of people, their ages, and ethnicity. The Census Bureau does not and will not share personal details they collect with any other government agency.

As you see, census data is important in countless ways when dealing with federal, state and local governments, or other organizations. Completing the census form should take only ten minutes. Help yourself and your community by participating in this national exercise.

If we do not participate in the census due to negligence/lethargy, while all others participate, we won’t be counted. And we stand to lose big time as individuals, and also as a local community and citizens at large. So, our own self-interest also compels that we take this seriously.

Kollengode S. Venkataraman

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