Today is April 1, National Census Day. Although right now it may not be in the front of our minds or on the front pages of our newspapers, today our community is calling on each of us to fill out the 2020 census.
This national ask comes at a time of many others. For the first time that we can remember, our generation is experiencing a nation in crisis. America has called on us to stay home. Our schools have moved online, our campuses have closed and our lives as we know them have been completely upended for the foreseeable future. These sacrifices are substantial. Yet we make them because we understand that while the impact of any one of us practicing social distancing is minimal, the impact of all of us practicing social distancing is profound.
The census is no different. Each of us individually must choose to participate to ensure that New Haven receives the support it requires and our government has the data it needs. In the United States, there is nothing new about the concept of each individual doing their small part to fight for a future we can believe in. Just look to the doctors, nurses and first responders who are dedicating their time to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The very notion of participatory democracy calls on us to make these kinds of sacrifices, albeit much less weighty, nearly every day. When we go to the ballot box, we know that our vote alone will not win an election, but we still vote. When we volunteer our time or money, we know that we will not cure the world’s problems alone, but we still contribute. And when we fill out the census in the coming months, we know that one more person may not guarantee funding for an entire public school or hospital, but we still do our part. Because that’s what civic leadership means.
The census, administered every 10 years by the United States government, is the only measure by which the federal government counts how many people live in the United States. Governments at all levels use census data to allocate funding to cities, schools, hospitals, roads, food and housing assistance programs and so much more. Census data is also used to determine representation in Congress and to provide accurate data for research and policymaking. Our own city of New Haven relies on census participation to receive adequate government funding, as each resident of New Haven that fills out the census, including Yalies, allows for the city to gain thousands of dollars in funding for the next decade.
The Census Bureau instructs that college students be counted where they go to school. For us Yalies, that means we should fill out the census online separately from our families and indicate that we live in New Haven. Our collective participation in the 2020 census will directly benefit the New Haven community. So remember that whether you live on or off campus, whether you’re a U.S Citizen or not (and, to be clear, there is no citizenship question on the census), you count in the 2020 census, and the New Haven community is counting on you.
This is why we’ve formed the Yale Census Coalition, joined our partners at the New Haven Complete Counts Committee and set the ambitious goal of a 100 percent count of the Yale community by the end of this school year. It’s also why we’re excited to participate in the #CountUsIn Ivy League 2020 Census Challenge and challenge our Ivy League peer institutions to set the same goal.
At a time of isolation, we hope participating in the 2020 Census can bring us together in support of the New Haven community that supports us every day. Now, more than ever, we’re seeing the importance of public resources and the great impact each of our individual actions can have. So now, in addition to staying home, staying safe, and thanking a doctor, nurse, first responder, grocery store worker, or delivery driver, your New Haven community has one more ask for you: fill out the 2020 Census.
April 1st is National Census Day. Students can learn more about how to fill out the 2020 census at https://vote.yale.edu/census.
JONATHAN SCHWARTZ is a junior in Franklin College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
This piece was written in conjunction with the Yale Votes Coalition.