A more accurate count for 2010

By Editorial Board

After receiving numerous reminders and seeing countless advertisements on Chicago Transit Authority trains and buses, it’s easy to notice the government is spending an extraordinary amount of money to encourage everyone to fill out the 2010 census questionnaire and mail it back for the count.

Some ads describe the census as a way to help communities and determine funding for under-serviced neighborhoods. Others emphasize it’s a 10-minute, no-stress process for the lazier individuals who may forgo marking the boxes for time’s sake.

The U.S. Census Bureau is trying a few different approaches this year to ensure the count is more accurate than previous years. However, it’s never been so costly.

This year’s census will cost an estimated $14.7 billion, which is an increase from $6.5 billion spent on the 2000 census, according to the United States Government Accountability Office.

Government officials have said the additional funds are necessary to ensure each demographic is accurately represented. Census advertising is directed toward many groups of people to show all citizens and undocumented people the importance of completing their census forms.

There is approximately $340 million allocated for advertising purposes. The 2010 census promotions and advertisements are in 28 different languages, 11 more than in 2000.

The tone of some ads also differs from the 2000 census ads. Instead of urging people not to leave the census blank as they have in the past, the government is giving each demographic a reason to fill it out.

Some ads say the correct count will determine how big to build hospitals and how many school buses are needed in an area. These are issues many people can relate to. The more superfluous ads on TV use humor as a tactic to get us to mail the census back.

If the new tactics, such as the additional languages, more advertising and new messages do work, the nearly $15 billion will be a worthwhile expenditure and may lead to less spending in upcoming years.

The U.S. Census Bureau is making a much better effort for the 2010 cycle through reaching all demographics, but that doesn’t mean this plan will work. Undocumented peoples may still feel unsafe and others will never mail the form back just because they don’t feel obligated to.