(This article was originally published in the December 2019 issue of Kern County Family Magazine)
The Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke shows us how a census can alter the course of world events.
“In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a
census should be taken…And everyone went to their own town to register…Joseph
also went up from the town of Nazareth…to Bethlehem…because he belonged to the
house and line of David. He went…with Mary, who was pledged to be married to
him and was expecting a child…and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.”
And the rest is history.
In the U.S., we also have a mandate from our Constitution to
count every person once every 10 years.
Fortunately, census taking has improved dramatically since
Mary and Joseph’s day. We should be glad about this, especially because we have
a census coming up next April.
First, you don’t have to go anywhere for the census: You
just need to answer a form counting everyone in your household. The U.S. Census
Bureau boasts how easy this is: 10 questions in 10 minutes. And, beginning in 2020,
the questionnaire can be completed on paper, online, or by phone. No having to
travel by donkey while pregnant to be counted! Reminders that the census is
coming up will be sent out by mail next March.
Second, for those who need assistance filling out the census
in a language other than English, the Census Bureau provides either the forms
or assistance in dozens of languages.
Third, whereas the census of the Bible was all about Joseph
and Mary’s lineage and personal information, the U.S. Census is completely
confidential. It is against the law for the Census Bureau to publicly release
your responses in any way that could identify you. The information can only be
used to produce statistics and will not be shared with other government
Fourth, in Kern County we have a great local resource called
the Kern Complete Count Committee, or KCCC. This collaborative of community
leaders representing nonprofits, faith-based organizations, local government,
media and other stakeholders is working to ensure everyone in Kern gets counted
accurately. Why? Because we lose about $2,000 in federal funding per person, per
year, for 10 years, for everyone who is missed. And we lose important representation
in government as well.
Our community will be hearing a lot more from the KCCC in
the coming months, especially regarding hard-to-count (HTC) populations.
Readers of this publication should note that a significant HTC group are
children under 5. Little ones often get missed in the census because they are
newly born, living in large or split households, staying with relatives, or for
other complex reasons.
Please do like Mary did in the Bible and ponder these
weighty things in your heart. Make sure everyone in your household gets counted
in next year’s census—including all children. That little one living with you
could grow up to be a world changer someday.
For information about census jobs, census kiosk locations near
you, flyers and more, please visit kerncounts.org.
Louis Medina is the Director of Community Impact for Kern Community
Foundation, a member agency of the Kern Complete Count Committee.