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2020 has not turned out the way we expected. COVID-19 has turned the world upside down creating chaos in the stock markets, at the elections, and of course in the health care system. 2020 also happens to be the decennial United States Census. Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution states: “The actual enumeration shall be made…, within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct.”
The census is vitally important in that it is used to apportion representation in Congress and many state and city legislative bodies and is tied to the section of the Constitution referring to apportionment. Today it has much wider implications such as in the distribution of government services. School districts are dependent upon census information to allocate school resources. Also important is the use of census information by private companies. Retailers ranging from large grocery and department stores down to corner coffee shops use census information to determine markets in which to open or market their products to.
All of this is possible only if everyone participates in the census. The census bureau began sending notices in the middle of March to every residential address in the country. You might have noticed that I referred to them as notices as the biggest change for the 2020 census is that it can be completed online. For our family of four, it took me less than 10 minutes to fill out the online survey.
For those of us engaged in the U.S.-Japan Council, it is important to promote the census to our colleagues who are not American citizens. What a non-U.S. citizen may not realize is that the census is an enumeration of every person, regardless of citizenship, or even permanent residency status. If someone was living in the United States as of April 1, they should be counted.
A foreigner might ask why they should be counted. They obviously don’t vote for their elected officials and perhaps don’t anticipate the need to access government services. However, during their time here, they are using government services. Often they are using the roads or their children may be in the public school system. Today, census data is especially important as public health officials track how to respond to the spread of COVID-19, a disease that infects without regard to nationality.
Although non-U.S. citizens may not have the opportunity to select their representatives, they are still represented by those individuals. To not be included in the count for apportionment, would dilute the power of their representatives as they would have to represent more constituents than were counted for determining district size. Based upon their presence here in Washington, DC, Japanese corporations clearly recognize the importance of working with Congress, even if they have no vote in this country. The same companies, like any company selling products to the American market, inevitably also use census data.
I would hope that every member of the U.S.-Japan Council recognizes the importance of completing the 2020 census. Do it online to avoid the visit from census staff later this summer. But also be sure to promote others taking the census, especially our colleagues who might not be U.S. citizens. We need to make sure that everyone is counted!
To complete the census, go to: https://my2020census.gov/
And for Japanese: https://2020census.gov/ja.html
—David Inoue (JALD ’18)
Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizens League