Some of you have already had your 2010 Census questionnaire delivered to your door.
It’s a simple form which takes about two minutes for the putative head of household to fill out. It asks 10 simple questions related to the household’s population (names, ages, etc.)
It doesn’t ask for social security numbers and doesn’t ask about household income.
Why fill it out? Well, despite its seeming innocuousness, the Census determines a couple of crucial things.
1. Population is the determinant of the size of a State’s delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rebecca Garrett, the lead recruiter for the U.S. Census Bureau in Mono County, says it is expected that California may lose a Congressional seat this year as California’s population has remained relatively static over the past decade. Meanwhile, Texas may gain as many as three Congressional seats.
2. Population is also a basis for resource allocation. Garrett says that for every Mono County resident accounted for by the 2010 Census, it’s worth $1,730 per year to the County over the next decade.
This according to a report by the Brookings Institution.
How did they arrive at that figure? Andrew Reamer of the Brookings Institution looked at overall expenditures of federal assistance programs in California and broke that down into a per capita figure.
According to Reamer: “The accuracy of the 2010 Census will determine the geographic distribution of a substantial proportion of federal assistance, particularly in the form of grants, over the coming decade. In FY2008, 215 federal domestic assistance programs used census-related data to guide the distribution of $446.7 billion, 31 percent of all federal assistance. Census-guided grants accounted for $419.8 billion, 75 percent of all federal grant funding.”
In Mono County, Garrett is leading the Census effort.
By trade, Garrett is an architectural photographer. She moved up to Mammoth from L.A. two-and-a-half years ago.
She started working for the Census Bureau last year doing “quality control for address canvassing.”
She made sure all the geographic location of all Mono County addresses was correct so she wouldn’t be sending her Census workers on wild goose chases.
Garrett has somewhat of a patriotic view of the Census. “It’s a benign way to participate in our democracy,” she said.
Unfortunately, even the most benign government intervention tends to make folks a bit squirrelly.
“In our world, people are so suspicious of the government and that the information they provide will be used against them … that’s why the Census questions are so benign.”
In particular, those who may be living illegally in the United States want nothing to do with any questionnaire.
Problem is, if they’re using government services, Garrett figures we’ve got to do everything we can to count them.
Which is why she’s always happy to find bilinguals to help with the Census work.
Although at this point, she’s happy to find anyone willing to help.
The Census Bureau estimated that it needed to recruit 600 workers for Mono County (not a misprint). Why? A couple of factors. First, if questionnaires don’t come back, homes need to be visited six times before they’re crossed off the list. Second, there’s a lot of attrition, despite the fact that the job pays $15/hour plus mileage.
How do you get the job? Well, you have to pass a simple written test and a background check. Eighty-seven percent of Mono County applicants are accepted.
The number to call is 866.861.2010.
The application deadline is March 27. The job would begin in mid-April. You’d get 20-40 hours/week for anywhere between 5 and 10 weeks. The perfect shoulder season job.
Mono County’s Census response rate in 2000 was 65 percent. The national average is 72percent.
Finally, one more pitch to demonstrate the importance of the Census from the Brookings Institute:
“The outsized influence of census statistics on federal funding indicates the enormous return on taxpayer investment in federal statistics. One way to think about this is that the $14 billion life cycle cost of the 2010 Census will enable the fair allocation of nearly $5 trillion in funds over the coming decade (not adjusting for inflation or other changes).”