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The U.S. Census sets out to count all people even if they do not have a traditional doorbell or mailbox.
Many people have unconventional residences. They do not live in a house or apartment with a designated mailbox. A doorbell is not a way to notify the arrival of someone.
The Census Bureau is not judging where people live, they only want to document that people are living in the U.S. They understand there are non-traditional ways to live in this world. If properly accounted for, there could be helpful resources and services allotted to that segment of the population.
Traditional households are informed about the census via mail, phone, or email. They can also complete their census using these same forums. Enumerators — census takers — will make personal visits to households that have not completed the census.
How Transitory Population is Counted
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, some people live on boats, reside at horseracing stables, or travel with circuses and carnivals. RV parks provide affordable housing that other people find advantageous.
There are stipulations, set by the Census, to define transitory living. This segment of the population typically pays to live in transitory or temporary locations.
Enumerators make plans to visit individuals living in transitory locations in person. There may be certain times of the year that boaters are more likely to be docked, as well as when RV residers may be stationary. The same holds true for when circus and carnival travelers may be more readily available.
The Census Bureau was scheduled to deploy 14,000 enumerators, from April 9 – May 4, to campgrounds, RV parks, marinas, hotels, and other locations where people do not have a permanent address.
Common questions asked by enumerators include name, age, date of birth, sex, race, who else lives with them, and if there is another place where they live most of the time.
How Homeless are Counted
Naturally, homeless citizens are hard to count. Nonetheless, they are an essential part of our population and the Census takes specials steps to reach them. They created the Service-Based Enumeration (SBE) operation to count people experiencing homelessness.
From March 30 – April 1, enumerators may come day or night, at the service provider’s suggestion, to visit shelters, soup kitchens, food vans, and certain targeted outdoor locations.
On April 1, enumerators visit previously identified non-sheltered outdoor locations. They work closely with community-based organizations to make sure everyone gets counted.
Having a doorbell or mailbox is the least of some people’s worries. Unfortunately, there are families subjected to living in cars, abandoned buildings, park benches, and on the street. They may be reluctant to complete the census in fear of retribution from law enforcement. Or, they fear they may no longer receive public assistance. However, census information is confidential and it is illegal to share data.
With or without a doorbell or mailbox, the census diligently makes a concerted effort to count everyone living in the United States every 10 years. It is rooted in our constitution.
There are nearly 330 million people living in the U.S., which is a lot of people to reach, especially during the middle of a pandemic.
Normally, the census is taken from April 1 – October 31, and the deadline to turn in the data is Dec. 31. Historically, it is challenging to count certain segments of the population like minorities, the homeless, and transitory residents within that time frame.
This year, President Trump’s administration requested the census end one month earlier, on September 30.
What is at Stake
Andrew Reamer, a professor at George Washington University, calculated that for each person missed by the 2010 census, in the 2015 fiscal year that person’s state lost about $1,091 in federal funding for Medicaid and child welfare programs.
The data determines the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives. Additionally, it is used to distribute billions in federal funds to local communities.
Census data is only collected every 10 years, that is to say, the ramifications of this information will last far beyond the current administration. The House of Representatives requests for a four-month extension, until Apr. 30, 2021, to deliver collected data, was not granted.
Consequently, everyone that lives in a state that is undercounted will be negatively affected by inaccurate census data.
Written by Sheree Bynum
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
United States Census Bureau: How the U.S. Census Bureau Counts People Living in Unconventional Places; America Counts Staff
National Low Income Housing Coalition: The Importance of the 2020 Census for People Experiencing Homelessness
The New York Times: Trump Is Plotting Against the Census. Here’s Why.; Editorial Board
Featured Image Courtesy of Michael Coghlan’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Janice Temple Tour Organizer’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License