Saturday, March 20, 2010

The 2010 Census

Last week we got the the 2010 U.S. Census form in the mail. I was excited about getting it, and quickly rushed off to fill it out. I had no qualms whatsoever about sharing the information of which it asked. The form basically asked for the name, gender, marital status, and race of the people in my household. One of the "unusual" questions was about whether or not we were home owners. I happily answered every question and quickly popped the results in the mail.

So it is that I now hear of people very anxious about the forms, afraid of having their privacy "invaded" and their rights taken away. This is all baloney, phooey, and utter ridiculousness. You take the risk of losing far more rights than you could possibly lose by answering these questions every time you throw away a credit card application that you get in the mail. Anybody with even the leanest online presence risks even more than that, and heaven help anybody who actually buys or sells anything online, or *gasp* does online banking!

People willingly broadcast far more information than what is on the census forms any time they have a blog, a Twitter account, or a Facebook page. Just poke around this here blog a little and you'll learn pretty much everything that's on those forms: I'm a Caucasian male in my mid-30s with a Caucasian wife and 3 Caucasian kids. I own my home with a hefty mortgage (but I'm not underwater, thank you!). That's pretty much what the form asks aside from contact information and names.

However, here, for free, I'll highlight even more details about me that I might have "let slip" through this blog: I'm heterosexual, politically right leaning (though I don't belong to any political party), and an aerospace engineer. I own two cars, and I have difficulty keeping small pets alive. I dabble in the stock market and don't vacation enough. I have no hobbies to speak of except as they relate to caring for my wife and children. Oh, and I like to do genealogy, even though I can't easily find the time for it.

Wikipedia has the following blurb on the census:

The text of the Constitution concerning the census, in Article I, Section 2 states: "The actual Enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct." Because the Constitution specifically authorizes an "Enumeration" (counting), some feel that the federal government has no authority to force citizens to answer questions beyond that which establishes the number of people living in the household. The 2010 census contains ten questions: about age, gender, ethnicity, home ownership, and household relationships. Six of the ten questions are intended to be answered by each individual in the household. Current federal law has provisions for fining those who refuse to complete the census form.

Which brings me to why I think you're an idiot if you don't fill out the census forms. As any genealogist will tell you, a proper census form is a gold mine for those who are attempting to understand an ancestor's family history. On the forms, we get to see a snapshot of the living conditions of a person: where they lived, who was in the household at the time with ages, etc. Our census forms today are nothing compared to how "intrusive" they used to be. In decades past, they asked questions about what profession people had, if they could read, where their parents were born, what language they spoke, and how much property they owned.

So, don't even think about complaining. Just fill out the forms and send it back. 100 years from now, your descendants just might be grateful you did. And while you do have the "right to remain silent" (see Miranda warning), why would you honestly want to do that in this day and age? Anybody with an internet connection and a burning desire to know can find the location of your birth marks. So don't sweat it.

Just fill it out and send it back. And be grateful we live in this incredible nation of ours where every person counts. (Even if they can't. Hmmm, they don't ask that question anymore, either ...)

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