The Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke shows us how a census can alter the course of world events.
“In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken…And everyone went to their own town to register…Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth…to Bethlehem…because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went…with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child…and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.” And the rest is history.
In the U.S., we also have a mandate from our Constitution to count every person once every 10 years.
Fortunately, census taking has improved dramatically since Mary and Joseph’s day. We should be glad about this because we have a census coming up next April.
First, you don’t have to go anywhere for the census: You just need to fill out a form counting everyone in your household. The U.S. Census Bureau boasts how easy this is: 10 questions in 10 minutes. And, beginning in 2020, the questionnaire can be completed on paper, online, or by phone.
No having to travel by donkey while pregnant to be counted! Reminders that the census is coming up will be sent out by mail next March.
Second, for those who need assistance filling out the census in a language other than English, the Census Bureau provides either the forms or assistance in dozens of languages.
Third, whereas the census of the Bible was all about Joseph and Mary’s lineage and personal information, the U.S. Census is completely confidential. It is against the law for the Census Bureau to publicly release your responses in any way that could identify you. The information can only be used to produce statistics and will not be shared with other government agencies.
Fourth, in Kern County we have a great local resource called the Kern Complete Count Committee, or KCCC. This collaborative of community leaders representing nonprofits, faith-based organizations, local government, media and other stakeholders is working to ensure everyone in Kern gets counted accurately. Why? Because we lose about $2,000 in federal funding per person, per year, for 10 years, for everyone who is missed. And we lose important representation in government as well.
Our community will be hearing a lot more from the KCCC in the coming months, especially regarding hard-to-count (HTC) populations. Readers of this publication should note that a significant HTC group are children under 5. Little ones often get missed in the census because they are newly born, living in large or split households, staying with relatives, or for other complex reasons.
Please do like Mary did in the Bible and ponder these weighty things in your heart. Make sure everyone in your household gets counted in next year’s census—including all children. That little one living with you could grow up to be a world changer someday.
For information about census jobs, census kiosk locations near you, flyers and more, please visit kerncounts.org.
Louis Medina is the Director of Community Impact for Kern Community Foundation, a member agency of the Kern Complete Count Committee.