So far, residents of both boroughs have done a miserable job of filling out the census. An initial survey found under 40 percent of people in both counties filled out and sent back the initial census form mailing. (Estimates place the national percentage at something over 50 percent, which isn't much better).
What are you waiting for?
Quickly, remember that everyone has to fill it out whether they like it or not; its required by law. And for those angry over federal spending levels, remember: its costs the government 42 cents to mail back the first round of forms. Those who didn't answer will be contacted in person, at a cost of $57 a visit.
But moving on, the census is important for many reasons.
The most obvious one is federal funding; the government uses information from the census, among other sources, to determine where to allocate $400 billion in annual spending on hospitals, schools, infrastructure upgrades and other projects. Want a better school, health care clinic or a sturdier bridge? Then fill out the census.
The demographic information gleaned from the census informs policy makers and community organizations about the neighborhoods they serve; they need information about where you live, and who you live next to, in order to serve your needs.
On a similar note, the census provides the rest of us with a once-in-a-decade snapshot of the country's population. When you stop to consider, the effort to count all 300 million-plus Americans is a remarkable one. We, for one, want to know how much the population has grown since 2000. The growth of the Latino population, and many other groups, over the past ten years has helped shape our national identity.
(Some census-watchers have suggested people worried over their immigration or citizenship status have been hesitant to complete the census for fear the information will be used against them by law enforcement agencies. They shouldn't be: only the Census Bureau has access to the data).
Finally, the census determines city, state and federal election districts. Elected officials will make decisions on where to create new districts, and what existing districts should be expand or made smaller, depending on population trends determined by the census.
In other words, politicians use the census to gerrymander districts to shore up party power.
It's messed up, we know. But that's America's political system at work. So if you like your elected officials, or if you hate them, do your part for democracy and fill out the census.