Students aren’t aware of the census

What the census is and what students should expect

Every decade, the Census Bureau will count the population of the U.S. to get an adequate update on how many people live in each state. Though the goal is to make sure every person is counted, every decade people are missed.

In order to bring awareness to students about the importance of the census on campus, university officials and student groups are presenting information on the census to make sure students won’t be uncounted.

Jordan Nelson, a Strategic Communications student, along with four other students created the project, Counting Cass-County (C3), in order to spread awareness on the upcoming census in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

Nelson and the team members estimated that in the 2010 census, about 26 percent of North Dakotans weren’t counted. Nelson addressed why they think that the population wasn’t counted saying, “There’s a variety of reasons why people may not have taken the census in the past, but one overarching reason is lack of awareness on how the data from the census is used and why it’s important.”

Nelson added, “Also, accessibility has been an issue in past years but this year is the first year people can respond online, by phone or by email.”

According to the Census Bureau website, one person that isn’t counted can mean a loss of $19,000 to education, housing and social services funding in the city they are living in. Along with funding, the census also determines how many seats each state will have in the House of Representatives along with drawing congressional and state legislature lines.

When talking about what households are often uncounted, Nelson used the Census Barriers, Attitudes and Motivators Study to address those who are often missed.

“Renters, female heads of households, households with young children, household incomes of less than $35,000, less than high school education, non-white races, large households, multi-unit homes and renters were the primary groups that were uncounted,” Nelson said.

When it comes to college students, the Counting Cass County project wants to make sure everyone is aware of the upcoming census. “…I think by educating community members on how data from the census is used, we can increase participation.”

“Responses help shape critical decisions about how billions in federal funding will be distributed annually to local communities over the course of the next ten years,” Nelson said when talking about why everyone should care about the census.

“There’s a variety of reasons why people may not have taken the census in the past, but one overarching reason is lack of awareness on how the data from the census is used and why it’s important.”

Jordan Nelson, Strategic Communications student

In order to gain students’ attention, Nelson’s group is presenting their project’s purpose and census information at North Dakota State University and throughout the community.

“We are presenting to a variety of classes, organizations and other community events. So far we have presented to a few classes, two Greek organizations and at 1 Million Cups,” Nelson said.

Along with giving presentations, Nelson’s group is spreading awareness about the census by utilizing social media, hanging posters throughout the F-M community and tabling in the Memorial Union to talk to students and answer questions.

A faculty member that is advocating for census awareness is Wendy Baumann, the Administrative Assistant in the Student Activities Office. Baumann, along with other faculty members, is also spreading awareness on the census by giving five-minute presentations in large classes within multiple disciplines as they will give 19 presentations throughout the first week of March.

Baumann talked about why she thinks college students are unaware of the census. “I think because it’s every ten years… we don’t think about it till then. Students here today at NDSU were 10, 11, 12 years old back then so they’re probably very unaware that their parents were involved.”

“We’re doing more social media, we’re doing more emailing and broadcasting,” Baumann said when addressing the changes they have made in the past decade.

Baumann also said that listserv emails will be sent out to students, staff and faculty members giving additional information about the census along with upcoming dates.

“My concern has been we don’t want to overblow this and get people to start ignoring it, but we want to get the word out,” Baumann said.

Students can see the implications of census awareness even when they use the computer clusters across campus. At the bottom of the home page, there is a census tab that students can click on to learn more about the census.

The census form that needs to be filled out will consist of ten questions asking for the individual’s name, relationship to the householder, phone number, number of people in their household, age, sex and race. The forms can be filled out online or over the phone.

The first mail-ins that includes online and phone calls will end on March 12. On April 1, the census officials will send paper questionnaires to individuals who didn’t complete the census by the first deadline. On May 1, census workers called “enumerators” will go door to door to count the households that didn’t use the phone, online or paper questionnaire reporting options.

If students have any questions about the census, they can contact Wendy Baumann in the Student Activities Office. Students can also visit the federal website at

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