Hi all, after Myrna’s lecture today I was thinking more about a question that came up during this panel discussion I was on a week or two ago. A public library director explained how his library offers programming and information around the census, and will be expected to again in 2020, especially because most of the data collection will be online, rather than paper forms. He wanted to know what we thought public libraries should do about/for 2020 census if the citizenship question makes it on to the official form. I don’t think any of us had great answers, other than to say that the issues around it should be addressed in whatever education they provide.
Yesterday, @kellymce and @mtkinney and I spoke about this and Kelly mentioned encouraging everyone not to answer that question. I looked up more about it, and the Census Bureau will tabulate forms that are filled out incompletely, although this may trigger a phone call or a home visit by a census worker, which vulnerable people would likely find more alarming. Also, you can be fined $100 for failing to answer questions on the census or $500 for knowingly providing false information.
That NPR article (second link above), also had this info:
To fill in the blanks on 2020 census forms, the bureau is planning to use, for the first time, personal information from federal and state records, such as tax returns and Medicaid applications, as well as public utility records. The Census Bureau is discussing whether to use administrative records to answer the citizenship question on incomplete questionnaires and has not made a decision yet, the Census Bureau’s head of the 2020 census, Albert Fontenot, told NPR after speaking at the Population Association of America’s annual meeting.
It’s so thorny, right? I mean, it’s vital that people participate in the census for apportioning legislative districts, and at the same time, how do you advise people to volunteer information that could risk their safety? What do you folks feel the role of libraries should be in this particular aspect of democracy?