They Are Counting On You!—Census ’80 April 1
ABOUT 90 percent of the world’s countries conduct at least some kind of census. Usually the census is a population count. When taking a census, the government’s census employees not only count you but count on you to cooperate in this tremendous task.
Census Day for the United States is April 1, 1980. A few days before then, some 86 million households will receive a questionnaire. Of these households, 78 percent will get a short form that can be completed in about 15 minutes. Other households will get a form with more questions.
Most points of inquiry on a census form can be answered easily by filling in a small circle next to the most appropriate answer. Households that do not mail in the postage-free questionnaire will be visited by a census enumerator who will obtain the required information.
Census taking has an ancient history. For instance, national registrations of the Israelites served various purposes, such as for taxation and assignments of military service. (Num. 1:44-49; 26:1-4, 51) Ancient Rome also took a census for the same reasons. Caesar Augustus decreed a registration in the year 2 B.C.E., “and all people went traveling to be registered, each one to his own city.” (Luke 2:1-7) This decree compelled Joseph and Mary to journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem despite the fact that Mary was heavy with child. In this way, however, Jesus was born in the city of David in fulfillment of prophecy.—Mic. 5:2.
The English word “census” comes from the Latin “censere,” meaning “to tax.” But in modern times governments usually have not found it wise to use censuses as a means to impose taxes. Why? They find that many people do not cooperate with the census if it results in more taxes or a penalty of some kind. So virtually all countries regard census information as confidential.
To make sure that census information is kept confidential, United States law imposes a fine of $5,000 and five years’ imprisonment on any census employee who violates the secrecy provisions. Says the Census Bureau: “Not even another Federal agency or the President can see individual census answers, whatever the purpose.” (The only exception is that a person can get information about himself.) To guarantee confidentiality further, no name and address ever enters a computer. Information is kept confidential for 72 years; then microfilm census records are turned over to the National Archives.
Usually the law of a country requires people to give answers in a census. In the United States, failure to answer can incur a fine of $100. In any event, God-fearing persons follow the principles set out at Romans 13:1-7 and Titus 3:1, about cooperating with the government in such matters as a census.
Many are the reasons for taking a census. Says the Census Bureau: “Without the census, proper planning and management would not be possible in such areas as economics, military manpower potential, school requirements, employment, national and international finance, Social Security, business cycles, highway use, and the needs for health services, parks, water, and energy.” And a Nigerian statistician says: “Without an accurate census you cannot plan. And the planning is for the people.”
Census records often prove helpful to individuals. For example, it is estimated that there are 20 million Americans who are without proof of their age or birthplace. At times people need such proof. “Please send me a report,” wrote one man to the Census Bureau. “You are the only people who can prove I am not from outer space.” Whatever the reason, any American who needs to establish his age, citizenship or family relationship can write to the Bureau’s Personal Census Service Branch in Pittsburg, Kansas, and ask for a census search application form.
When census time comes, the government will want to count you. They also will be counting on you for full cooperation.