Like most of you, I got my census form in the mail today. Being a nerd and married to someone whose job uses a great deal of census data, I will dutifully fill mine out tonight and drop it in the mail tomorrow. If you’re expecting a baby this month, though, you might want to wait.
See, the census really wants you to count every person living in your house as of April 1. That even means newborn babies and kids. My form includes the “how many people in your household” question, with clear instructions to include every human in the house, and then literally the next question asks if you left anyone out, “such as newborn babies” and why.
The Census Bureau is actually kicking off a campaign using Dora The Explorer as “spokescartoon” to remind parents to include their kids in the census count. The campaign, called “Children Count Too” uses Dora because of her bilingual appeal. Federal, corporate and nonprofit organizations who deal with families and child care providers will distribute Children Count Too educational materials.
Children have been undercounted in every census since the first one in 1790. According to a December 2009 report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, children under age 5 are missed at a higher rate than any other age group.
“A complete and accurate count of our nation’s youngest is critical to their health and education, and the future strength of our communities and labor force,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves.
An accurate census count really is important — I’ve seen firshand how an undercount can cause real trouble for a city or school district in terms of funding. The form’s annoying, but shouldn’t take too long, and your answers are protected by law.