The federal government tells us that everyone counts, but when it comes to the national Census too few actually do-and that fact robs Minneapolis neighborhoods of millions of dollars.
Every 10 years the U.S. government attempts to count everyone living within its borders to determine the number of seats each state will have in the House of Representatives and to distribute hundreds of billions in federal funds for such things as schools, hospitals and transportation projects.
According to a recent poll, however, as many as 1 in 5 people say they won’t participate in the Census, citing disinterest and distrust of government as the primary reasons why. Youth, people of color and those living in poverty are the most likely to be uncounted.
“The census is very important to the future of our state and it only works if everyone participates,” said Robert Lilligren, Minneapolis city councilman from the 6th Ward. “Undercounting has real, negative impacts on the funds that come to us for services and education.”
Significant undercounting of Minnesota’s population occurred in the past two federal counts, which are constitutionally required every decade. In 1990 about 20,000 state residents were overlooked; 10 years later more than 14,000 were missed.
For every 100 people uncounted this year, Minnesota will lose $1 million in federal funds over the next 10 years.
To boost participation among groups most likely to go uncounted Main Street Project produced a four-language Community Census Guide in English, Spanish, Somali and Hmong. The guide describes the 2010 Census and addresses the concerns and fears that can get in the way of participation.
The free guide is available at sites around the city, including those listed below. It also can be downloaded at www.mainstreetproject.org.
Holy Rosary Church
2424 18th Ave. S
Jordan New Life Community Church
1922 25th Ave. N
Hope Community Center
611 E. Franklin Ave.
Midtown Global Market
(former Sears Tower)
Lake Street and 10th Avenue
Steven Renderos is media justice organizer with the Main Street Project, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit giving people living in rural and urban communities the tools they need to more fully participate in all aspects of community life.