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Census 2000 taken seriously

Every decade for the past 210 years, the United States Bureau of Census has tried to accurately count the population.

The growing problem however, which reached record levels during the 1990 census, was that only about half the population bothered to respond, skewing the numbers drastically and throwing off the final count.

So for the first time in its history, the census bureau has an advertising budget.



“The 2000 Census is being promoted big time,” said Yvonne Hoffmann, associate planner for the city of South Lake Tahoe, and city representative on the Census 2000 Complete Count Committee. “They’re even planning an advertising campaign on prime-time television and preparing information for school curriculums.”

Hoffmann said the census was originally created to help congressional districts determine how many representatives they needed, but later developed into an important source of information for both private and public interests.



“Obviously it has developed into a means of determining populations by community, county and state,” Hoffmann said. “But census information is also used to determine funding for roads, schools, housing, non-profit organizations and so on. I’ve even had businesses call me asking for census data to determine whether they want to move here, whether the population can support their business.”

According to census bureau statistics, the most significant undercount in the 1990 census was among ethnic and minority communities. To address that problem, South Lake Tahoe’s Complete Count Committee includes a variety of representatives responsible for raising awareness and educating specific segments of the population about the census.

“My goal is to get all the Latino community to answer the questionnaires,” said Rafael Elias, a bilingual counselor at Tahoe Youth and Family Services. “We’re not getting enough funding in this town. We need to show the numbers so we can get funding for the kind of programs and counseling we need.”

Elias said special outreach will have to be organized to reach the Filipino, Hindu and growing Russian communities at South Shore. Both Hoffmann and Elias said they want to inform people that all census information is secret.

“We want people to know they can fill this questionnaire out and have absolutely no legal repercussions,” Hoffmann said. “It’s 100 percent secret and people need to know nothing will happen to them if they respond. No one will get in trouble for answering census questions.”

Census questionnaires will be mailed in March and are due April 1, 2000.

BREAKOUT: For more information about Census 2000 visit http://www.census.gov or call (818) 904-6522

Census 2000 facts

– 94 million urban households will receive questionnaires through the mail

– Census takers will visit 23.5 million rural households to distribute questionnaires

– Approximately 500,000 extremely isolated households, such as homes in rural Alaska, will be individually counted by census takers

– Approximately 540,000 temporary workers hired by the Census Bureau will contact the 46 million households that fail to respond to the mailed questionnaires


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