The U.S. Census Bureau is gearing up for its once-every-10-year count of the nation’s population. A number of communities and ethnic groups are concerned about an undercount of there respective populations. One of the concerned groups is Native Americans, who say their tribes are not getting there proper share of government aid for schools, health care, scholarships, and other services. U.S. Census Bureau Regional Director Wayne Hatcher addressed the Statewide Native American Conference last week in Columbia on the campus of the University of South Carolina.
The new census forms will be mailed out in March. Hatcher says respondents need to be detailed in the information they share concerning ethnicity, and Native Americans listing the tribe or Indian nation they belong to is very important.
“I really stress the importance of marking American Indian as an individual’s race,” said Hatcher. “Just as importantly, write in the name of the tribe you are affiliated with. In the past some people have not marked that they were American Indian, and they have not marked therefore the tribe they are affiliated with. The only way you get counted properly is if you fill out the form properly.”
Hatcher says anyone may ask community census workers for help in filling out the forms once they arrive in the mail or they may contact the U.S. Census Bureau.
Hatcher says it is very important that an accurate count is made because decisions concerning various government allocations are made based on the statistical data provided by the information that the Census Bureau collects: “About $400 billion dollars a year is distributed by the federal government back to local governments, tribal governments, and community groups based on population. If the population is not accurately reflected the local government or the local community misses out on its fair share of those funds.”
Hatcher says the Census Bureau makes a concerted effort to hire community workers who have an intimate knowledge of the community in which they are working. For example gated communities are staffed during the counting period with workers who live in those communities.
Hatcher says counting over 300 million people is not an easy task, however the Census Bureau’s count has been fairly accurate over the years. “We hope that everyone would mail their census form back in, but we know some won’t so we hire people to go to those non-responding households and collect census data. We conduct a number of quality control checks on the census when it’s over with and it has been found to be very accurate. It is in about a one-percent margin of error.”
Hatcher says the Constitution says that the Census Bureau is to count all inhabitants. He points out that there is no questions about citizenship so illegal aliens may be counted. Hatcher says the census forms that will be mailed out in March will be the smallest in years. A respondent will be asked to answer 10 simple questions.
“They’re not questions about you bank account or Social Security number, or the income from your job,” said Hatcher. “The questions are non intrusive and they’re simple. We have a guarantee we make with the public that all the data they provide to the census will only be released in statistical summaries, in other words, numbers not names.”
Hatcher says some persons have inquired about using the Internet to count the population, however some security concerns must be ironed out before the bureau uses the online route.
“A census is long term planning operation and in the middle of this past decade it was decided there were some potential securityissues to having people respond online,” said Hatcher. “We don’t want some person’s information to be potentially violated or someone to see somebody else’s information. There were some concerns about the security of the network when you’re dealing with 310 million Americans.”
Hatcher says the Census Bureau is working on a plan to use the Internet for the 2020 census.