by Latoya Peterson
A few weeks ago, Boyfriend and I traveled to Harlem to check out Van Hunt in concert. After a night of too-strong cocktails and screaming out the lyrics to the songs, we walked out of the show – only to be handed a mug and a packet, encouraging participation in the United States 2010 Census. The girl in front of us grabbed a mug, but on the way down the stairs said “Thanks for the free cup, but you won’t be hearing from me, Mr. Government Man!” We cracked up.
Over the past few weeks, special interest organizations have been pushing the full court press about standing up to be counted for the Census – and for good reason. Ensuring the actual headcount (normally determined through census workers and paper ballots) is as complete as it can be is vital to government:
Considering the herculean task of counting, within a few months, every person living in the United States, a 1 percent error rate seems reasonable. But the actual count, not the estimate, is what the government goes by when it distributes money and determines election districts for the next 10 years.
And when the federal government, these days, counts money by the trillions, 1 percent is a lot.
In all, the federal government doled out $447 billion in 2008 that was tied in some measure to the census, according to a study released this month by the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
Medicaid counts for 58 percent of money distributed based on population, with transportation, such as roadwork, making up 10 percent more, according to the Brookings study.
The think-tank and research institute estimates the 2010 Census will be the basis for the distribution of nearly $5 trillion in federal money to state and local governments over the next decade.
“The basic, overall count is the foundation for so many funding formulas,” Childers said. “It’s just amazing how often that number appears.”