Will This Year’s Census Be the Last?

“Like most institutions of democratic government, the census is under threat.”

From an article by Jill Lepore published in The New Yorker:

“In the past two centuries, the evolution of the U.S. Census has tracked the country’s social tensions and reflected its political controversies. Now its future is in question.”

“‘Count all people, including babies,’ the U.S. Census Bureau instructs Americans on the questionnaire that will be mailed to every household by April 1, 2020, April Fool’s Day, which also happens to be National Census Day (and has been since 1930). You can answer the door; you can answer by mail; for the first time, you can answer online.”

“… the census, like most other institutions of democratic government, is under threat. Google and Facebook, after all, know a lot more about you, and about the population of the United States, or any other state, than does the U.S. Census Bureau or any national census agency. This year may be the last time that a census is taken door by door, form by form, or even click by click.”

In the article, Jill Lepore mentions that the U.S. census is mandated by the Constitution. However, she seems to ignore that stopping the collection of data on all citizens and residents within the United States would presumably require an amendment to the Constitution.

The article does contain a lot of history over the years about the arguments for and against a census.

You can find Will This Year’s Census Be the Last? in The New Yorker at: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/03/23/will-this-years-census-be-the-last.

My thanks to newsletter reader Holly Adams for telling me about this interesting article.

13 Comments

I’m frustrated with this year’s census … DH is a civilian contractor with the AF in Germany (not DoD) and only DoD or military are being counted in this year’s census … we were counted in the last one while in Italy. Slap in our face. We vote, we pay taxes (lots of them), and will be returning permanently to the states when DH retires… but we are being deliberately excluded from this year’s census.

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    David Paul Davenport March 18, 2020 at 4:07 am

    I am clueless, despite reading the article. Pamela Jensen refers to “DH” and “AF” and “DoD” and although I presume AF means Air Force and DoD means Department of Defense I have no idea what “DH” means. To the best of my knowledge the census is conducted by the Census Bureau, an agency of the Department of Commerce, and its purpose is to gather the number of residents in each of the fifty states for the purpose of representation in the House of Representatives. The number of people residing in Germany who happen to be US citizens is NOT relevant to the apportionment of Congress and these persons should not be enumerated at any time. And if they were, how would they be assigned to one of the fifty states without impacting negatively the representation of the other states? The census is based on where someone resides on a specific date, not where someone might live in the future. Ms. Jensen might wish to be assigned to some state she plans to move to but I should also then be given the right to be assigned to some future place of residence rather than the one I live in on April 1. The equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment mandates “equality” so the census says “where are you on April 1st, 2020”, not “where will you be on (future date).” On April 1st, 2020, I will be in Fresno, California, and will therefore be counted toward California’s representation in Congress. Ms. Jensen, on the other hand, will be somewhere in Germany, which is not part of the United States and therefore has no representation in Congress. She, despite her US citizenship, does not count in any State’s apportionment. This is the way it is suppose to always be. So I don’t understand Ms. Jensen’s complaint.

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    Mr Davenport … we are considered residents of California… we file California resident tax forms every year (California gets lots of money every year when we file our returns yet we don’t get any benefits since we are physically not there), are registered to vote in California (vote by mail), have California drivers licenses and own property in California since that is where we will return to once my husband stops working at Ramstein AB … why should we NOT be counted??

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    Mr Davenport … so in your opinion, none of the military who happen to be overseas or stationed outside of their states of residence, no Federal employees overseas should be counted in the census…. even though we have been in previous years? We vote, we pay both federal and state income taxes, we have to have stateside drivers licenses and more … but we can’t be counted as part of the US???

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    Complete incompetence and a snub to US citizens.

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“she seems to ignore that stopping the collection of data on all citizens and residents within the United States would presumably require an amendment to the Constitution.”

Hogwash! Somebody just didn’t read the article. Lepore very clearly said, “enumeration of the people, every ten years, is mandated by the U.S. Constitution.” Her point, in case you didn’t get it, is that the census *as we know it* may not exist in 72 years. (“This year may be the last time that a census is taken door by door, form by form, or even click by click.”)

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The UK Census is facing the same threat – the 2021 Census could be the last. Despite this the authorities refused to include a question on birthplace for the benefit of the family historians of the future. You can see the forms used in the recent trial at 2021Census.com

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Mr. Davenport, DH is a slang abbreviation for “Dear Husband.” It’s used primarily by women, as you might imagine.

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Mr. Davenport, DH is a slang abbreviation for “Dear Husband.” It’s used primarily by women, as you might imagine.

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Mr Davenport is apparently unaware that military bases overseas as well as Embassies are not considered part of the country they are located in, they are considered part of whichever country operates them. That is why when Assange was in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, the local police could not go in and arrest him even with valid warrants for arrest … the Embassy (as well as military bases) are considered part of the operating country territory. US military bases in Italy are not Italian, they are US property, ones in Germany are not considered German, nor are ones in Afghanistan considered Afghani. My husband happens to work for the US Airforce … we live in on base housing … the neighbors on each side are active duty military … they are being counted in the census, yet we are not. We can NOT use German medical care, we do NOT pay German taxes, we can NOT attend German schools nor are we allowed to have any German identification and when we go to another country, we have to use the “foreigner” lanes in the airports. How would Mr Davenport feel if his neighbors on both sides of him were counted in the census yet he was not? When his company sends him to work temporarily in another state (he lives in California… so if his company sends him to work in Nevada for say 6 months)… does he change his voter registration, get a Nevada drivers license, pay Nevada income taxes and change all his documentation to Nevada? Of course not, he is still a Californian who happens to be working for a short period somewhere other than he normally does…. same with us. My husband happens to be temporarily working out of the US due to his job with the United States Air Force and we will return to our home in California once the job is over.

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    David Paul Davenport March 20, 2020 at 6:40 pm

    I defer to whatever ruling SCOTUS has issued in regard to the representation of Americans residing overseas, but a strict reading of the Constitution does not support the notion that overseas residents can choose which states they are enumerated in, for the same reason I don’t believe that students should be enumerated where they attend school. Doing so inflates the number of representatives in Congress, while decreasing the number at the place they departed and may or may not return. In my opinion a true and accurate count of the population of a given state must include only those physically present in an enumeration district of a State on the census date. Having seen a great many census manuscripts for overseas military bases I have never previously considered the situation of Mr and Mrs Jensen, but having received an “invitation” from the census bureau to complete my census form on-line using the 12 character “Census ID” I again defer to the census bureau itself because it stands to reason they are in compliance. I’m sure it has mailed a “invitation” to the Jensens (and other overseas residents) and will place them where SCOTUS says they belong. BTW – since Mrs Jensen used the analogy of a Californian working temporarily in Nevada, she may not know that were the situation reversed (ie a resident of Nevada working in California) California law requires that anyone in California for 30 consecutive days is required to obtain a California driver’s license and register their vehicle with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. This also applies to college students and since they have a negative impact on traffic and water usage in my community I support enforcement of this law by walking the parking lot at my local university about six weeks after each semester begins, photographing out of state vehicles, and notifying the California Highway Patrol of the offenders. BTW – I would gladly trade places with the Jensens for the opportunity to live where they don’t have water rationing and the highest state income taxes in the country (13.3% compared to no income tax in Nevada). If I were her I would look into selling my property in California and doing what was needed to live in Nevada. In my opinion there are few benefits to living in California. Dry weather most of year may in fact be the only one, but I really do miss the days when California had only 20 million people and not 40 million as it does now much to the detriment of outdoor vegetation, wild fires, traffic congestion, and for the better part of a week hoarding by people who listen to California’s fear mongering Governor.

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    Mr Davenport — no, i wasn’t aware that visitors to California have to change all their documentation to California ones when in the state for over 30 days. What happens when they go back to their home states and have to change everything back again? However according to the California DMV website, a person has to register the vehicle with the DMV within 30 days OF ESTABLISHING RESIDENCY WITHIN THE STATE… not as he states anytime one is within the borders for over 30 days.

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    Let’s clarify this issue.

    There is one guiding principal in the U.S. Census procedures that will explain all this, called “The Concept of Usual Residence.” You can find it explained in great detail on the Census web site at https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial-census/2020-census/about/residence-rule.html or in a PDF version of the same thing at https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/programs-surveys/decennial/2020-census/2020-Census-Residence-Criteria.pdf

    In short, the census records should always record your address as your “usual residence,” not as your legal residence. To be specific, “Usual residence” has been defined as “the place where a person lives and sleeps most of the time. This place is not necessarily the same as the person’s voting residence or legal residence.”

    In other words, if your legal residence is in California but you spend most of your time in Texas (or Germany), for the purpose of the census, you are to be documented as a RESIDENT of Texas (or Germany).

    This is regardless of where the person votes, his or her citizenship, or whatever it says on the person’s driver’s license or U.S. passport. The census records should always show RESIDENCE; the place where the person spends most of his or her time.

    The result is that if you spend most of your time in Germany, you should never be counted as a resident of any U.S. state, regardless of your legal citizenship. The U.S. census deliberately counts RESIDENTS, not citizenship.

    The same document does list some exceptions: “Determining usual residence is straightforward for most people. However, given our nation’s wide diversity in types of living arrangements, the concept of usual residence has a variety of applications. Some examples of these living arrangements include people experiencing homelessness, people with a seasonal or second residence, people in group facilities, people in the process of moving, people in hospitals, children in shared custody arrangements, college students, live-in employees, military personnel, and people who live in workers’ dormitories.”

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