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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Caught in the ACT: The Census

<ll did something pretty awesome. It may not have felt like it - in fact it may have been the most anti-climactic event that an aggressive advertising campaign and a decade of waiting can achieve - but filling out that seven-question Census form was actually one of the more important civic duties that we can perform.

Although the information that you provided the government was little more than your most basic demographic characteristics, the data collected from this Census is going to have a powerful effect on national and state policy for the next ten years. The statistics that the Census produces allow us to describe this nation in the most accurate way possible. National, state, and local government agencies, from the Department of Health to your local primary school, will use these statistics to help guide their programs. Furthermore, non-profit organizations and businesses alike will use this information to guide policy, land use decisions, and client services.

The Census also helps to shape government and private sector institutions by providing the data that is used to acquire federal funding. For example, the state of Minnesota receives $1.3 million in funding from the US government for every 100 people that are counted here. These dollars go to a wide array of essential programs and services, including road maintenance, health care and child care programs. 

Of particular relevance to the state of Minnesota is the power of the Census to determine congressional representation. Minnesota is currently at risk for losing one of its eight seats in the House of Representatives, with Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Georgia likely to gain seats. The prospect of diminished power in the national political arena highlights the great importance of counting every person that lives in Minnesota to ensure appropriate political representation over the next decade.

And that’s why what we all did this past Monday was so awesome. Our information is a national resource that can be used to understand and change the America that we live in today. The simple act of filling out that form and being counted deserves to be recognized for the important act of civic engagement that it is – an act that has profound effects on the people around us and the causes we believe in.

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