Colleges drive census count

The 2010 U.S. Census Portrait of America Road Tour came to New Haven in March as part of a nationwide effort to promote participation in the census.
The 2010 U.S. Census Portrait of America Road Tour came to New Haven in March as part of a nationwide effort to promote participation in the census. Photo by David Burt.

Students will wake up tomorrow to find fliers under their doors and posters in their entryways telling them how their residential colleges plan to count them in the U.S. Census.

The materials will get there by the hands of a small army of students recruited by David Broockman ’11, a politically active undergraduate who city officials asked to lead a group of students to devise a plan for the census. He has recruited about 120, including a captain for each residential college. The colleges’ individualized plans to count students for the census on Tuesday arose from months of coordination among Yale administrators, students and city officials. Both Broockman and Registrar Jill Carlton, who is responsible for getting all students counted, said they expect near 100 percent participation.

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Ezra Stiles College will have a study break for every class that gets 100 percent participation, Broockman said, and in Davenport College students will not be allowed to eat dinner in the dining hall until they get a stamp on their hands showing they have completed their forms.

Meanwhile, in Timothy Dwight College, forms will be available at the Master’s Office Tuesday and Wednesday, and a table will be outside the dining hall during lunch and dinner on Tuesday. TD Master Robert Thompson has promised a study break for each class that reaches full participation.

“This will be the most effective three minutes of your life in terms of helping the community,” said Timothy Dwight College captain Emma Sokoloff-Rubin ’11.

The U.S. Census determines representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and the amount of federal funding New Haven receives in the next 10 years. According to the April Lawson ’09, director of census planning for the New Haven mayor’s office until recently, each person who completes a survey brings roughly $9,000 of federal funding per year to New Haven. All students currently living on campus are legally required to complete the short, seven-question survey.

On Tuesday evening, volunteers will take stock of how many students have filled out the forms, and those who have not can expect knocks on their doors Wednesday or Thursday, Carlton said.

On Friday, Yale Security will transport the forms to the New Haven Police Department and into the hands of census officials, Carlton said. Broockman expressed confidence that the count will be successful.

“We’ve set it up so everything is going,” he said. “We just have to press play.”

University Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer said in an e-mail to the campus that this year’s process marks a change from the 2000 census, when students were counted in their homes, rather than in New Haven. But Laura Waldon, a spokesperson for the U.S. Census Bureau, said the method of counting students in universities has not changed since the 2000 census. Universities fall under the “group quarters” category, along with homeless shelters and prisons.

No accurate response rates for universities in the 2000 census are available, Waldon said, so while Yale’s census organizers said Yale students only had a 30 percent response rate in 2000, this figure cannot be confirmed.

Representing about 4 percent of the New Haven population, Yale students will play a crucial role in the funding New Haven receives, Lawson said. As of Sunday, 41 percent of New Haven residents had returned the forms, compared with a national average of 56 percent, according to the census’s Web site.

Karyn Gilvarg, executive director of the New Haven City Plan Department, said she hopes to reach 73 percent participation city-wide. One challenge for the city, she said, is that undocumented immigrants are hesitant to release their information. Between 10,000 and 15,000 undocumented immigrants are estimated to live in New Haven.

“We have done a lot to reassure people that it is confidential, and it doesn’t matter if someone is undocumented,” she said.

According to a 2008 estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau, 123,669 people live in New Haven.

Correction: April 6, 2010

An earlier version of this article — using information provided by David Broockman ’11, who is helping to administer the U.S. census at Yale — misreported the method Ezra Stiles College is using to encourage students to fill out their census forms. The college will have a study break for every class that gets 100 percent participation; it will not provide sushi for the first 100 students who complete their forms.

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