You’ve Still Got Time To Take the 2020 U.S. Census—And Here Are 3 Reasons Why It’s So Important That You Do

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Photo: Getty Images/Delmaine Donson
I filled out my U.S. Census form (in a panic) back in March. I had difficulty categorizing my roommate, Amber (like, we're not married but we're not-not married), but I prioritized it as a part of my civic duty, knowing the deadline was fast approaching. But if, like me, you thought you needed to take the U.S. Census in the spring, you actually have until the end of October.

Why the mix-up? Well, because April 1 is Census Day, and although the official important dates page points out that it's not the deadline, that's what actually pulls up when you Google "U.S. Census deadline." That's a pretty sketch move for an algorithm and for the page that doesn't even spell out when the deadline is, nonetheless you understand the confusion.

You might still be confused, though, about why you should take the US Census still (Amber in the next room: "Isn't that how we figure out how much water everyone gets or something?") That's okay—you have until October 31 to respond by online, by phone, or by mail. Here's why you should get on that before the takers come knocking on your door (which honestly, sounds like a pretty dramatic statement for the next phase of the pandemic).

Why it's so important for you to take the 2020 U.S. Census

1. The U.S. Census determines where federal funding goes

Essentially, a big purpose of the 2020 U.S. Census is to determine where money needs to go, and how certain community programs and systems can be best funded. This includes health care, housing, child education, public transportation, and plenty of other services. The U.S. Census relies on headcount to ensure that the money gets to where the material resources are needed.

Off the cuff, this matters specifically because BIPOC and POC, LGBTQ+ individuals, the poverty-stricken, and immigrants are often undercounted in the census. For example, 9 percent of Black people were missed in 2020 Census count. There's a couple of factors when it comes to this: not enough multilingual census takers to conduct interviews, members of these communities being more transient, even just general (justifiable) distrust for the government. It's the census' responsibility to reach these people better and there seems to be actions taken towards that. But it's also essential for those in marginalized groups to make their voice heard, and ideally have funds go to the communities that truly need them.

2. The U.S. Census determines how many representatives a state gets

Representatives—as in The House of Representatives. Consider that urban areas, including a giant metropolis like New York City, are historically undercounted. That means that there's not enough representatives in the government where oppressed people actually live. That also could lead to less federal laws made and passed to the benefit of those groups. Regardless of your identity, being able to really reflect how many people are present means more representation.

3. The U.S. Census helps show where and how businesses can flourish

It's no secret that local businesses were hit hard as the result of COVID-19, and it's going to take a while for people to get back on their feet. But in its way, the U.S. Census can help with that too. The data collected in the census helps inform better decision-making around "business expansions, closures, hiring strategies, and other business practices to decrease perceived risks and increase return on investments," per the official partnership fact sheet. These informed decisions mean that, again, resources can reach the demographics that need them and local businesses have the ability to thrive.

So, you know, between now and October 31, set aside the 10 minutes needed to fill out the census form and get it done.

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