The Dollars and Sense of the Census


During the Super Bowl, I look forward to watching the commercials. During the winter Olympics, I don't.

However, one ad that intrigued me earlier this month as the Saints beat the Colts, still intrigued me last night while the U.S. Men's Hockey team unleashed their own special can of whoop-ass on the Canadians.

It's the one about the U.S. Census taking place this year.

According to Parade Magazine, the 2010 Census will cost approximately $14 billion—a figure that is expected to double by the time the next U.S. Constitution-mandated census rolls around in 2020.

Wait. A. Second.

Can someone tell me how our nation can justify this expense in the face of an already entropically growing national debt? Or how they can justify the expense of highly coveted ad space during the Super Bowl and the Olympics??

Well, apparently, the investment of a few dollars to raise awareness and increase participation is worth it if it ultimately reduces the number of unresponsive households, which cost about $70 each to tally. If $70 doesn't seem like that much, multiply it by a million.

Also, the data gathered by the census is important. I spoke with StacyAnn McBain, a local media relations specialist for the 2010 Census, who explained that in addition to determining our representation in the government, demographic data also determines the allocation of federal funds.

"It's as important as a vote," Stacy said. And if that isn't enough, think about this: Failure to respond to the questionnaire could result in a $100 fine, while providing false information more than quadruples that penalty.

Because counting billions of people is not as easy as one-two-three, the 2010 Census Portrait of America Road Tour is coming to a location near you, in our case, it will be at the Idaho State Capitol Building on Wednesday, Feb. 24 from 12:30-6 p.m.

This is a cross-country event that strives to both publicize the upcoming census and improve the response rate. All ages are welcome to attend and learn about the history, benefits, and various uses of census data. After an opening ceremony, during which community leaders will speak, the education continues with musical performances, cultural presentations and drawings for prizes.

The census—it makes, er, sense.

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