March 17 is and always will be St. Patrick’s Day to me. It’s a day to celebrate my Irish heritage, break out my mother’s recipe for corned beef and cabbage, and bake a few loaves of whole wheat soda bread.
But this year it’s also the day that we should be receiving the census form in the mail. So now we have another great reason to celebrate.
The U.S. Census is an amazing thing. It provides us with a snapshot of America and with the tools to apportion legislative seats at the local, state and national level. It gives school boards accurate data to assess whether they should build new classrooms or convert some buildings to new uses. It allows city and regional planners to consider where new water and sewer infrastructure needs to be built or whether roads or other transportation systems need to be updated. Businesses can evaluate what communities might need their goods based on demographics. Marketers can learn more about their potential audiences. And, in 70 years it provides an opportunity for your grandchildren to look back and find where you were living in 2010.
But the census only works if you fill out the form and get it back. I am very concerned that we may once again get an undercount in Tompkins County. In 2000 our official count was 96,501 when estimates put our number at just about 100,000. The 2008 estimate is 101,136 and we want to get to that number and make sure that everyone who resides here is counted here, but the calendar makes this very difficult.
Every address in the county should receive a form. But there is generally only one form provided per living unit. College students living off-campus should fill out the form here in Tompkins County since that’s where they live 9 to 10 months of the year. But they have to fill out one form and include all the people living in the apartment. If the form isn’t returned by the end of April for a specific address then census enumerators visit that address to try to find out who lives there. Unfortunately many college students leave town or move in early May and the census enumerators will only find an empty apartment.
So, what can you do? Please fill out the form and get it back in the mail. If you have questions, go to www.2010.census.gov and find out the information. If you are a landlord please talk to your tenants and remind them to fill out the census form and return it. If you don’t receive a form in the mail by the end of March please go to the Questionnaire Assistance Center (QAC) at Tompkins County Public Library and fill out a census form. There will be other QACs in the County as well.
A few years ago I hunted through 1910 census data to find my paternal grandparents, who had died in the influenza epidemic in 1918. My father never spoke about them much and I didn’t know their middle names or where they’d been living. It was a joy to find their names. So give your descendents a gift and fill out the form.