This year marks the big 10-year headcount: the 2020 United States Census.
The census is a nationwide study that collects data on statistics about the American people and economy. Census data tracks population growth, income data, internet access, ethnicity and religion, among other things.
Census data is important for plenty of reasons, Chris Chmiel, Athens County commissioner, said. One reason, he explained, is federal funding.
“The main reason is 765 billion dollars in federal funding,” Chmiel said. “(The) other is (representation) in congress. (There are) all kinds of other reasons — planning and business development, (too).”
Starting April 1, students can take the census by mail, phone or online. This year is a milestone for the census in that it is the first census to collect results online.
Kirk Greenfield, a meteorologist for WTAP, was a census enumerator for the 1990 census. Things were much different back then.
“My role back in ‘90 was on the ground, physical census,” Greenfield said.
Greenfield distributed the census in Athens County. He learned a lot about the area, he said.
“I learned a lot about the county and where roads went,” Greenfield said. “It really taught me a lot.”
Greenfield added that he learned a lot about what the people of Athens County looked like. Though the census is more accessible than ever, he worries that internet censuses won’t necessarily increase accuracy.
“It’ll be easier with the internet for people who live in the city,” Greenfield said. “If you can’t count poor people, people without internet access, without transportation (the number will be less accurate).”
Most people were open to taking the census, Greenfield explained. There were only a couple instances at strangers’ homes where he felt uneasy.
“The census administrator had me double check one out of every 10 people who we (hadn’t) been able to find,” Greenfield said. “Some didn’t want to be found.”
Ironically, Chmiel noted that students at Ohio University are the most reluctant people in Athens County to take the census, even though census data plays a role in determining college student healthcare and financial aid.
“Most students don't think they should do it because they live somewhere else,” Chmiel said. “The way the census is set up (it counts) where you live 51% of the time.”
Vivian Moussa, a junior studying journalism, said she wanted to spread awareness about the census to fellow students because not many are aware of its importance.
“I think part of (why college students don’t know about the census) is because it's only every 10 years,” Moussa said. “We were in middle school and elementary school. Our parents filled it out. Now that we’re in college and (we) do it ourselves.”
Moussa is •managing director of Bobcats Get on the Map, a campus effort to raise census visibility. She hopes it educates students on the census and how it affects them.
“(Students should) definitely look into how it can affect (them),” Moussa said. “I think more people have the pell grant than may not realize it.”
For those worrying about being double-counted, at hometown and at OU, Moussa had words of comfort.
“If somebody is double counted they throw (it) away,“ Moussa said. “It’s better to be counted twice than not at all.”