Census Day is here and officials are continuing to work to make sure USC students understand the importance of being counted.
Thursday is Census Day — the day the government will use to take a snapshot of the country’s demographics. Residents across the country are asked to fill out the 10-question Census form based on where they are on April 1 and mail it back.
The Census Bureau has made an effort to ensure students know how to participate, but many students still say they are unclear about the census process or don’t feel the need to participate.
“I don’t really know what it entails — I haven’t really thought about it,” said Alex Beltran, a senior majoring in history.
The Constitution requires the national population to be counted every 10 years; the government uses these numbers to distribute federal funds for education, housing and health care programs. The census totals also determine the balance of power in Congress, since each state is allocated a number of seats based on its population.
The Census Bureau estimated that undercounting Californians in the 1990 Census cost the state more than $2 billion over the decade. Current trends indicate California might not gain any seats for the first time since it joined the union in 1850, and if the undercount is bad enough this year, it might even lose one.
“The census is extremely important for USC, as it helps to decide the allocation of federal financial aid, as well as funding for programs to improve the neighborhood surrounding USC,” said Marilyn Katzman, a junior majoring in international relations and psychology and an intern for the Census Bureau.
To enhance its awareness efforts at USC, the Census Bureau recently set up a table in Leavey Library to answer students’ questions.
Andrew Wright, a senior majoring in theatre and a Census Bureau employee, said about 20 students visit the table during the course of a day. He said the most common question students have is whether they should be counted at home or at school.
“It says so explicitly on the form they should be counted here,” Wright said.
This goes for international students as well, though many are unaware they need to participate in the census.
“The [international students] don’t count towards the congressional seats, but they do count towards how many people are using facilities,” Wright said.
Tony Tambascia, assistant dean for student affairs and executive director of the Office of International Services, said OIS has been working to create awareness about the census among USC’s international community through announcements on its website, Facebook page and weekly e-mail newsletter.
Still, some say they are not sure they will participate.
“If someone asked me, I’d probably do it, but no one’s asked me to fill out a survey,” said Natalia Dhirani, a senior majoring in fine arts who is originally from India.
Dhirani said she hasn’t seen any e-mails or ads and right now does not intend to participate.
Other students, however, said they will participate.
Mansour Alsaleh, a first-year graduate student from Saudi Arabia studying industrial and systems engineering, said he is used to filling out the census because he has done it in Saudi Arabia.
“I received their mail in my inbox,” he said. “I did this in my country. They count the number of people in the country to do a certain level of planning for the future.”