Students should participate in US Census

Distribution of the 2010 U.S. Census begins this month. It makes sense for the U.S. to take a headcount every 10 years, as required by the Constitution, yet many are finding grounds to protest this seemingly apolitical issue.

Objections range from the constitutionality of the 10 questions asked to how they are phrased. Politics enter the discussion because congressional districts are determined by population, so every state stands to gain or lose seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The parties in power in each state also determine how district lines are redrawn.

The demographic information obtained will be used to determine how more than $400 billion in federal money will be allocated, according to the U.S. Census Bureau Web site.

Clearly, it is important for everyone, including college students, to fill out the census, and there is no reason for anyone not to complete it.

Yet nearly one in five people are unsure if they will participate in the census, according to a Pew Research Center survey released in January, and 6 percent of those surveyed said they probably wouldn’t or definitely wouldn’t complete the census.

Adults ages 18 to 29 were among those least likely to participate. When asked why, most of those surveyed said they were too busy, didn’t know about the census or weren’t interested.

College-age adults need to take the census more seriously.

Most Americans don’t realize participation is required by law. According to the survey, 46 percent of people did not believe it was required, and 23 percent were uncertain.

Some conservatives argue that the Constitution only requires an “enumeration,” so Americans should only answer how many people currently reside in the household.

Conservative author Gary Barnett said on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s Fox News show “Freedom Watch” that he only answered that question despite the threat of fines for not completing the census. He feels the other questions, which ask for things like age, gender, race and phone number are unconstitutional.

However, completion is still legally required, and questions about race and sex were on the first census in 1790.

Some blacks don’t object to being asked about their race rather how they are asked. One of the options for race reads: black, African-American or Negro. While some still identify as Negroes, others found its inclusion offensive, which led to a protest in Texas, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Housing staff members will be distributing censuses to students living on campuses across the nation, or colleges may release directory information to the Census Bureau, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Universities are legally allowed to release this information, though students may request that it be withheld.

Students need to appreciate the significance of the census and realize that it goes beyond mere politics. When the census arrives, they should fill it out.