Government officials are making a final effort to encourage public participation in the 2010 census.
The constitutionally-mandated count has occurred every 10 years since 1790. The census yields a massive amount of demographical data that is used for the creation of legislative districts and the allocation of federal funding to local governments.
The 2010 census will also have a direct effect on UC Davis students. Much of the federal funding which goes to our school is determined based on census statistics. The census determines federal allocation of money for the Pell Grant budget, which many students depend on for financial aid.
The government distributes $400 billion each year to local and state governments. Each person counted in a census is worth around $10,000 to their city in federal funds, according to a UCOP press release. In Davis much of this money will go directly to the university.
“I call [the census] the mother of all campaigns,” said Rep. Mariko Yamada (D-Davis). “We want to count every breathing person in the U.S.”
Yamada said everyone must be counted regardless of whether they are a citizen or not. People without homes also must be counted.
Anyone can view a map of their community at 2010.census.gov, which displays a region’s census participation. According to the map, Aggies are behind the curve in returning their census forms. The UC Davis area shows a 41-50 percent participation rate. The city of Davis has a 67-72 percent participation rate, while the national average for participation is currently 63 percent.
“Undercounting could lead to erosion or loss of federally funded programs – approximately 3.6 billion in education program funding is at stake,” said UC Office of the President policy and programs analyst George Zamora in an e-mail interview.
Zamora added that students who live in campus housing areas will be receiving their census forms no later than May 21. Each resident is asked to fill out a separate form and return it by mail. Census workers will also conduct counts door to door for people who did not send in a form during April through July. It is much cheaper for the government, however, if people participate by mailing their census form.
“I have been a census aficionado for many years” said Yamada, who worked for the U.S. Census Bureau in 1980. “This activity, which is constitutionally required, is the foundation of representational democracy and returning the fair share of tax revenue back to communities.”
Mateo Hernandez, who attends UC Davis’ chemistry Ph.D. program, said he was not aware federal funding allocation is based on census numbers and wishes the form could be filled out online.
Rene Johnson, who also attends the Ph.D. program, agreed that the census was important.
“I haven’t filled it out yet, but right now it is magneted to my fridge,” Johnson said.
SAMUEL A. COHEN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.