Last Saturday we talked a little about this year’s Census and the difficulty in retrieving responses. So far in Massachusetts, response is only at 5%; while the deadline isn’t until April 19, the lack of response is utterly appalling.
Wealthier neighborhoods tend to have higher response rates than poorer ones. Census response in Chinatown has always been particularly low for a number of reasons. There is an obvious language barrier; many residents, seeing a whole page of English, may simply toss it in the trash. (Hopefully they at least recycle, but that is beside the point.) The Census Bureau should be more willing to distribute forms in different languages, especially if there is an organization like ACDC ready to help.
Second, residents may be afraid of their reported information going against them in some way. Perhaps they live with more people than their landlord is aware of, or they commit slightly illegal acts on a daily basis. Either way, they are hiding something they fear will be revealed if they send their information to the government. In actuality, the information one provides on the census is confidential. Those poor census takers are only trying to do their job, which is hindered by uncooperative people.
A third reason may be that they don’t know how to represent themselves on the form. Maybe some people feel that they don’t fit under any of the ‘race’ categories, and instead of checking off a random box they angrily chuck the whole thing in the trash (recycle). One way to fix this would be to contact the Census Bureau and complain, but I suppose this only works with proficient English, time to spare, and excess anger. (Please note that the Census should probably not be filled out by an angry person, because results may be skewed by mistakes, and that would not make any statisticians happy.)
All in all, there is really no reason not to fill out the Census; it’s easy, fast, and serves the people in the end anyway, supposedly. If the Census Bureau has more accurate data, then they will have a better grasp of the situation in each area. If there are only wealthy respondents, they may inaccurately conclude, since their sample size is large enough, that a region/district/state needs less money than another, when in reality they both need more money (who doesn’t need more money these days?). Completing it before April 19 also allows one to escape from strangers knocking on one’s door up to six times, like people who are suspiciously trying to collect money. It even comes with an addressed and stamped envelope, doesn’t it? I can’t remember. Really though, there is no loss in filling it out; there is only gain, which describes very few things in life. So do it and make your statistics teacher happy by mentioning that you are not contributing to the dreaded nonresponse bias! Woo. Good night. (This is about the length of a college essay by now. If only I could have written mine as fast.)
– Rowena Leung who is forsaking her homework for the census! (Oak Terrace Youth)