Counting the masses: Why the census matters


It is almost common knowledge that every ten years the U.S. Census Bureau counts the number of people residing throughout the United States. What isn’t common knowledge to many is that the Census Bureau does not share information with other government agencies: not even the CIA or the FBI.

In the recent past, the FBI has attempted to gain access to data from the Census, but has been blocked by courts and the constitution. For undocumented immigrants who are worried about their information being shared by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Brett Buckner, Partner Specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau assures them that this will not happen.


You and the Census
Are you part of a Complete Count Committee in your community? How you are working towards making sure that all members of your communities will get counted? How are you educating your community on the merits of the Census? What are some of the challenges that are unique to your community? Do you trust the Census Bureau? Why or why not? Send me an email or leave your comments below.


Title 13 of the U.S. Code protects the confidentiality of all your information. Violating this law is a crime with severe penalties. Under this law, the Census Bureau cannot share names, addresses, social security numbers, employer identification numbers or telephone numbers. Census employees are sworn to privacy for life: revealing census information results in a $250,000 fine, at least five years in a federal prison or both.

The census is used to determine population for purposes of political redistricting for congressional seats. Census numberes are instrumental for determining populations for government agencies, non-profit organizations and private enterprises.

The 2010 Census short form has 10 questions. One of these is the race of the person filling out the form. Individuals can self-identify if their race or national origin is not listed on the form. For instance, a Somali-American can check the box against Black, and also write in “Somali.”

According to Buckner, the census has resources for community leaders to use to educate their communities. According to the Minnesota Census 2010 website, there are over 8,000 Census jobs available.

Nekessa Opoti ( is a freelance writer and the publisher of, a Kenyan online magazine and newspaper.