Why Teach the Census?
Why Teach the Census?
In March 2010, a census form will be delivered to your students' homes. You can imagine how some of them might respond. "So what?" they might ask. "Why should I care about the census?" The lessons that comprise the Census in Schools program help answer these questions. By learning about the census—its development, its uses, and its logistics—students will discover how important participating in the census really is, and that doing so will affect them now and for many years to come.
The Importance of the Census
We live in a representative democracy. If everyone is going to be represented and have a voice in government, we need to know how many people that "everyone" includes. The country's founders understood this, so they put it right into the Constitution! Article 1, Section 2 requires the government to count the number of people in the country every 10 years.
The data collected from this count will determine the number of representatives each state has in Congress, which affects the number of electors in presidential elections. And census data are used within each state to define congressional districts, which can impact congressional elections. These uses of census data are at the foundation of our democracy.
More to the Census Than Meets the Eye
National, state, and local governments provide the foundation of our infrastructure, from building roads to supporting essential services.
But how do different levels of government decide how funds should be used? One of the most important tools is census data. The 2010 Census will help determine how more than $300 billion of federal money is allocated each year. This can have a direct effect on your students' lives. They may even benefit from construction of a new school!
Strength in Numbers
There is yet another crucial use for census data: to help ensure that Americans receive the fair treatment that civil rights laws guarantee us. The census provides demographic data that the government uses to ensure compliance with laws such as the Fair Housing Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The effects of these laws are profound. For example, how are housing opportunities affected by the race of occupants? Census data provide this and other information that plays a central role in ensuring equal rights for all Americans.
Census in Your Classroom
Look at the textbooks you've used over the years in your classroom. Have you ever noticed how many of the tables on those pages rely on census demographic data? In fact, a lot of the information and figures that you teach every day come from the census. Think of census data as a compendium of information that helps everyone from government officials and business leaders to teachers and students.
Bringing this data into your classroom will help supplement material that you're already teaching and reinforce important social studies skills. The lesson overviews that follow provide step-by-step teaching instructions. Along with the interactive worksheets, these lessons will help your students understand how important it is to learn about the census.