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Why the 2010 Census counts for a lot

In the face of a globally challenging economic climate, one of the most positive signs for Boston is that our population continues to grow. In fact, last year, for the first time since the 1970s, Boston’s population surpassed 600,000 people. It may sound like a trivial number, but an accurate population count is actually very important to everyone’s livelihood. Starting in March, we’ll have the opportunity to update our population estimates with the 2010 U.S. Census, which occurs once every 10 years. As efforts ramp up to ensure an accurate count in 2010, you should know both why the Census is so important and what you can expect to see over the coming months.

The Census will help communities across the country receive more than $400 billion in funding for everything from supporting hospitals like Boston Medical Center to investing in schools, public works projects, and emergency services. The number of representatives we have in the U.S. House of Representatives is also directly related to the population of our city and state. This fact is especially important for the Commonwealth, as we have the potential to lose a seat in Congress, which would have a negative effect on our state’s ability to leverage more funding and resources at the federal level.Each person missed in the Census translates to a loss of $1,230 in local funding. In Boston, we know just how important an accurate count is to receiving this crucial funding. Just last month, we won our fourth Census challenge, resulting in the U.S. Census Bureau officially increasing its July 2008 population estimate for the City of Boston from 609,023 to 620,535. Despite the more than 11,000 person increase, we still contend that Boston’s true population estimate should be 630,384, and we stand to lose $12 million in federal funding by not counting these people.

So, what are we doing to ensure the most accurate count possible for this year’s decennial Census? We started by appointing an official liaison from the City of Boston to coordinate with local, state, and federal stakeholders in order to get all of the pieces in place for an accurate count. Educating residents about the census process is one of our most essential responsibilities, and that’s why we established a Boston Complete Count Committee, a volunteer group of community leaders who are working to increase awareness and motivate residents to respond to the 2010 Census.

The diverse immigrant population that makes Boston so vibrant and unique is also one of the most important groups to participate in the Census. Immigrants make up 27 percent of our city’s population and 31 percent of our workforces. We have a responsibility to welcome these new Bostonians and recognize that we share a common future, but we also have to educate them about the Census. For example, the information that immigrants provide to the Census Bureau is completely confidential, regardless of whether the person who is submitting it is documented or not. What matters most is that they count themselves and their children as members of our community because everyone stands to benefit from the resources and funding made possible by an accurate count.

There is a lot of challenging work ahead, but a complete count is in our hands. When you receive your census form by mail in March, take ten minutes to answer ten questions. Remember that April 1, 2010 is National Census Day. You can use this day as a point of reference for mailing in your completed forms. Between April and July, census takers will visit households that did not return forms by mail.
Your task is simple – fill it out and send it back. But the implications are enormous. Let’s use this opportunity to show that everyone counts.