The U.S. Census Bureau began the 2020 Census on Jan. 21. Every decade, the bureau counts all people living within the U.S. and its territories, a process required by Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution. As a result, everyone must participate in the census to comply with the law.
According to the U.S. 2020 Census website, the nation uses the information gathered throughout the census to decide the number of seats that each state will receive in the House of Representatives, to make choices regarding federal funding and to help ensure that people receive necessary products and services.
“The apportionment of the House of Representatives is a vital characteristic of our government that is dependent on the census count,” said Dr. Chase Porter, assistant professor of political science. “However, a variety of other decisions depend on census data: the distribution of government spending, where developers build and so forth — any decision made in the U.S. that depends on knowing the population of an area is going to draw on Census Bureau data.”
To conduct the census, the U.S. Census Bureau began counting population in remote Alaska in January. The bureau will then send invitations to each household asking them to participate in the census beginning in March and continuing until April 1. By April 1, all households will receive the invitation and will then be expected to respond to the census questions by mail, telephone or online. From May to July, census workers will visit households that did not respond to the invitation in April.
Throughout these months, census workers will also visit people who may not have received invitations or who do not have a permanent residence, including people who live in extremely rural areas, college students and people who are dealing with homelessness.
“The biggest challenge is making sure that everyone gets counted at their usual place of residence,” Porter said. “The Census Bureau has adopted a variety of procedures and rules for different possible places of residence to get as accurate of a count as possible. In one interesting example, Census Bureau workers are already working in Alaska, because there are certain remote areas of Alaska that are only easily reachable when the ground is frozen.”
Since participation in the census is required, college students will have to participate in the census. Although many college students do not live in the same location throughout the year, Porter said these students and other people who live in multiple areas during the year will be counted in the census as a resident of where they live on April 1.
The 2020 Census also offers jobs to thousands of people nationwide. Nick Clift, sophomore behavioral sciences major, is considering applying for a job as a census taker and believes other students could also benefit from applying.
“The census pays well above minimum wage and they are actively seeking to hire college students and young people,” Clift said.
According to the U.S. 2020 Census website, census takers collect census data from households that did not respond to the original census invitation.
“The reason it would be a great job for students is that they will get to know their neighborhood a lot better,” said Dr. Linn Carothers, professor of mathematics. “Riverside is a great area to be a part of. There are a ton of really great people here. It is a great opportunity to get outside your bubble.”
Carothers also encouraged students to work as census takers because it could expose them to the diverse American landscape.
“This is one of those jobs where you are going to be talking to people face-to- face, and you are going to be exposed to different cultures and start to (learn about other people),” Carothers said.
To work as a census taker, one must first fill out an online application by visiting recruitment.2020census.gov and participate in the job interview process.
Applicants will then be notified and receive training for their positions during the census process.