In the current state of global pandemonium, news of the 2020 Census has been buried underneath blaring headlines about the coronavirus. The Census deadline has been pushed back to mid-August, and the stay-at-home orders have left Census workers biting their nails, apprehensive about the accuracy of this year’s Census.
This setback, however, does not change the fact that the Census matters more than ever for teenagers. As teenagers, it is easy to sit in the sanctity of our homes, letting any shred of thought regarding the Census fly over our heads. After all, we are still kids, sheltered from the realities of an adult life. However, the Census occurs once a decade—in other words, the Census data from 2020 will directly affect federal program spending deep into our 20’s.
Hundreds of federal programs use the Census data to make decisions on where and how the 675-billion dollars-worth of funding will be distributed every year. A large portion of this money directly affects high schoolers and college students. In fact, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Commerce, three within the top ten largest programs that use the Census Bureau Data are from the Department of Education. The largest of the three, is the Federal Pell Grant Program.
Federal Pell Grant Program, as the name implies, offers grants from the US Department of Education to help undergraduate college students pay for tuition. According to estimates from a Federal Pell Grant Report, 31% of undergraduate students received Pell Grants, or about 6.8 million students, during the 2018-2019 school year. The program’s 28 billion dollars of expenditures were directly affected by the 2010 Census data.
As a high schooler, I am frankly blown away by these numbers. The realization that a third of my peers in college will be dependent on federal programs that use Census data, hits me with a sense of urgency. Unfortunately, college debt is an inescapable reality for most students and mitigating the crisis of college debt will require appropriate distribution of funding. Knowing that the financial support that we will receive during our time in college is contingent on the accuracy of this year’s Census sheds light on the fact that the 2020 Census is vital to our long-term livelihoods.
Other than the Federal Pell Grants, medical assistance, construction, and Title 1 Grants, among many other programs will depend on the data from the 2020 Census. As one teenager to another, I want to call out to you reading at this very moment, to help with the Census. The Washington Bus has organized multiple virtual ‘Get Out The Count’ text/phone banks via Zoom, giving young people like us to contribute to the Census, especially during this extraordinary time when Census workers will need all the help and support they can get. Ultimately, the Census is not just a head count. It is a projection of our lives ten years into the future, and this opportunity to shape our future is, in my fair opinion, pretty darn important.
To fill out the census, go to 2020census.gov right now and respond. Be sure to include everyone you currently live with!
Want to volunteer with us? Help us contact people all over Washington State to Get Out The Count! We’re hosting weekly remote volunteer events as we work together to spread the word on Census! Sign up here.