Census 2020: Make sure you stand up and get counted | Opinion

March 5, 2020 6:30 am

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By Thomas J. Botzman

Many Americans are seemingly ready to brush off the importance of the decennial U.S. Census, treating it as trivial and not worthy of making time to complete in today’s hectic world. There is so much going on that a simple count appears unworthy of our time and attention.

That popular misconception, though, could negatively affect many things that are taken for granted for the next 10 years – if not more.

Many years ago, I taught a number of collegiate courses on applied statistics. And, yes, those classes showed it is possible for our country to use statistical methods to estimate our census counts – and in some cases calculate them better than the actual count itself.

As citizens, we need to collectively recognize that making sure every child and adult is counted – and counted in their proper states and regions of the country – is important. It makes a huge difference in intangible ways that can shape your future and impact the quality of life in your community.

It was recently pointed out to me that we are equally as close to 1990 as we are to 2050. I remember 1990 well, but 2050 sounds like a line from a science fiction movie or a new world. In our technologically-driven world, change comes at you fast. In 1990, I did not know about the Internet and the boxy computer on my desk had green print on a black background.

Needless to say, a lot has changed in 30 years. What do the next three decades have in store for humankind? That is a difficult question to answer. In 1990, people did not worry about their online persona and social media consisted of talking to neighbors in person at community functions or church bazaars.

Today, the U.S. Census still can be completed the good old-fashioned way by U.S. mail – and more modern methods by phone and online.

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As an educator, it is my privilege and honor to work with students who will be running our world in 2050. A complete census will give us indicators about where people live now and a glimpse of what the future holds.

For example, how many occupational therapists will be needed in Luzerne County in 2050 as the now young population ages?  Will we need more, or less, elementary and secondary teachers and what will they need to teach? Will our population move more toward urban, suburban or rural areas?

By understanding the shifts in population, and who are neighbors are, we will be better positioned to educate for a future that moves us all forward.

About 50 years ago, the entire U.S. economy was valued at $1 trillion. Today, federal government spending alone is more than $4 trillion.

The investments made today, it follows, will have an oversized impact on the realities of the future economy and our way of life. By ensuring each citizen is counted, we will be able to more accurately gauge how to best allocate the federal government’s spending powers.

State and local governments will be increasingly ready to serve our community. Businesses will be ready to invest in new and emerging domestic markets based upon sound data and nonprofits will be able to serve those who need a wide array of social services.

After all, that technology we mentioned above is making our world smaller by the day.

The U.S. Census is important to how we will spend our resources in the next decade. By participating, we can ensure that the resources we share go to improve our local, regional, and national communities. That’s an idea we can all support.

Thomas J. Botzman is the president of Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa. His work appears occasionally on the Capital-Star’s Commentary page.

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