April 1 is National Census Day, which means there is a concerted push to get Americans to scribble out their information for counting by
the government. The census will play a big role in everything from
Congressional redistricting to allocating highway funds to figuring out
where to build new schools. But, as millions of Americans come together
for this decennial undertaking, it also reveals something about the
character of Americans and of America itself. Here's how.
Congressman: We're Too Paranoid Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry frets,
"what worries me is blatant misinformation coming from otherwise
well-meaning conservatives. They are trying to do the right thing, but
instead they are helping big government liberals by discouraging fellow
conservatives from filling out their census forms. Early census returns
are showing that conservatives have been measurably less likely than
liberals to return their census forms." This means right-leaning
communities will be under-counted, unfairly reducing their
- Arab-Americans Striving to Fit In
Newsweek's Roqaya Ashmawey reports that,
although Arab immigrants long ago secured the right to declare
themselves "white" so as to avoid what they feared would be
discriminatory treatment, this is changing. Now, Arab-American leaders
are lobbying for an Arab ethnic designation on the census. Their hope is
that, rather than hiding quietly in middle class neighborhoods,
Arab-Americans can proudly come together as one of America's
unified--and influential--ethnic groups.
- Why Small-Town
Midwesterners Love the Census The New York Times' Monica Davey reports that by far the
highest census participation rates come from tiny towns in
Midwestern states like Nebraska and the Dakotas. Ironically, these are
the nation's most sparsely populated regions. Davey speculates, "the extreme
participation in the census may have less to do with a wishing for more
federal money than with a certain sensibility. [...] some combination,
they said, of being practical, orderly, undistracted and mostly
accepting of the rules, whatever they are."
- Why Big City
Immigrants Don't The New York Times' Fernanda Santos reports that the lowest participation
comes in poor immigrant communities in places like New York. Census
workers dread the city, as they know "New York City, with its huge
immigrant population and its bevy of unorthodox and sometimes illegal
living arrangements, would be a difficult challenge. The early returns
were not encouraging."
- Slowly Recognizing Gay Citizens
The Nation's John Nichols sighs, "One of
today's great struggles is to assure that LGBT Americans count." While
he's glad to see that same-sex couples will be counted as such, he says
that's not enough and that the census' failure to incorporate sexuality
reflects a public unwillingness to count our gay neighbors. He
approvingly cites a group that "seeks an expansion of the Census in
future years to ask whether responders are lesbian, gay, bisexual or
- Latinos More Optimistic Than Thought Pew's Hope Yen delivers the good
news. "What boycott? Close to 9 in 10 Hispanics say they intend to
participate in the 2010 census, with immigrants more likely to say the
government count is good for their community and that personal
information will be kept confidential, according to a new poll." That
poll "appears largely to put aside concerns that Hispanic discontent
with the government's slow progress on immigration reform will curtail
participation in the high-stakes count now underway"
Foreign Born! Politics Daily's Bruce Drake delves a bit
deeper. "Foreign-born Hispanics are more knowledgeable and positive
about the census than native-born Hispanics and more of them correctly
know that the head count cannot be used to determine whether they are in
the country legally or not," he reports.
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