Counting the nation

Published 3:52 pm Monday, March 22, 2010

The U.S. Census bureau is hiring — calling for 1,000 workers just for Polk and Rutherford counties.

The count is upon us, and these workers will follow up with those of us who do not fill out the form.

But, there is no reason for that. The 2010 questionnaire is one of the shortest in history, and comes very close to the length and scope of the inquiries asked in 1790, the first census managed by Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State. That year we were asked to provide information on gender, race, relationship to the head of the household, name of the head of the household and the number of slaves, if any.

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This year, everyone living in a household will be asked to answer seven questions: name, gender, race, ethnicity and whether they sometimes live somewhere else. In addition, the head of the household answers how many people live in the residence, whether it is a house, apartment or mobile home, and provides a telephone number for follow up if any information is missing or incomplete.

The data collected in this census, required by law every ten years, will be used among other things to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The lines defining the 11th Congressional District, traditionally one of the most competitive congressional districts in North Carolina, may be redrawn. Elections in the 11th district are usually close and hard-fought.

In addition, the data collected helps to determine how more than $400 billion in federal funding each year is spent on infrastructure and services, such as hospitals, job training centers, schools, senior centers, bridges, tunnels and other public works projects and emergency services.

Heres hoping that as we take a count, we also use this opportunity to take stock of America, a nation surely growing more diverse and more populous. May we also grow in our commitment to our shared future together.&bsp; JB