[Ed. note: This is a guest blog from Flyer intern Natalie Mayo.]
April 1st might be April Fool's day, but last week's rally to support the 2010 Census was no joke.
During the 2000 U.S. Census, roughly 200,000 Shelby Countians were uncounted. Because every 100 residents not counted means a loss of $1 million over the next 10 years, local leaders spent so-called "Census Day" making sure Shelby County was down for the count.
“It is our city’s obligation to participate,” Shelby County mayor Joe Ford said at the rally on the Main Street Mall. “We cannot move forward until we mail our Census forms back.”
By Census Day, only 44 percent of Memphians had participated. Nationally, that number was at 54 percent.
The census is mandated every 10 years by the U.S. Constitution. The population count determines the number of seats a state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“It is one of the most valuable data tools in the Unites States. The government relies on census data to make informed decisions,” said Joyce Avery, chair of the Shelby County Commission.
But it's not just important for the data. Census numbers are also used to allocate approximately $400 billion in federal funds annually. That money goes to hospitals, highways, and schools, among other things.
Local census worker Terrance Fluker thinks some people don't fill out the census form because they are worried about an invasion of their privacy.
“All personal identifiable information is kept under lock and key for 72 years, the average lifespan of an American,” he said. “Only demographic information is used. … Even the president of the United States cannot look at Census forms.”
The Census bureau will send out another form to delinquent households May 1st. If residents fail to submit those forms by the end of May, door-to-door census takers will be sent to collect the data.
The count will be delivered to the president December 31, 2010. — by Natalie Mayo