Wicker urges Mississippians to participate in the census
Courtesy of Senator Roger Wicker’s Office

The 2020 U.S. Census is well underway, and workers across our country are ready to coordinate this massive, once a decade undertaking. By April 1, an invitation will go out to every American household to participate online, by phone, or by mail. It is important that as many people as possible stand up and be counted in this tradition that goes back to America’s founding and is required by Article 1, Section 2, of our Constitution.

The founding fathers understood the importance of accurate information for a functioning society. America’s constitutional mandate for a census every 10 years was the only one of its kind when it was adopted in 1789. The first census was taken a year later and administered by Thomas Jefferson.

  • Representation, Funding, and Economic Growth

Today, the census remains a vital tool for American democracy. It is used to determine the number of representatives each state gets in Congress and therefore the number of votes each state gets in the Electoral College. It also factors heavily into decisions about how to distribute $675 billion in federal funds each year. The private sector relies on it as well, using the data to inform where businesses should open new stores and where nonprofits should start new branches. With so much at stake, getting the census right is critically important.

Mississippi is directly affected by the accuracy of our census count. According to George Washington University’s Institute of Public Policy, 55 federal initiatives like Medicaid, highway funding, and school lunch programs use data from the 2010 Census to allocate around $10 billion to our state annually. This data also determines how to target relief after natural disasters like hurricanes and floods. If Mississippians do not respond, then resources may not go where they are needed.

  • Privacy is Important

Because of the importance of this data, census takers will make every effort to get a 100 percent response rate. They will do outreach to the homeless and group housing units, including college students on campuses and residents of senior centers. In May, they will begin going to homes that have not yet responded to the survey.

This may cause some to worry about privacy. However, safeguards have been put into place to protect personal information.

By law, the government is required to keep this information confidential. Every worker giving out the survey takes an oath to protect respondents’ personal information. All answers are anonymous, and they are only used to collect statistics. The survey is very short, taking only a few minutes. All census workers will have identification badges with the Department of Commerce watermark, and none of them will ever ask for a Social Security number or donations. For Americans who are not comfortable sharing their information in person, there are other options to complete the survey by mail, phone, or online.

  • Go to Census.gov

Representation, funding, and economic growth are all helped by an accurate census. Mississippians can assist in this effort by visiting www.census.gov to learn more about the process, what questions will be asked, ways to avoid fraud, and even job opportunities.