The Census isn’t the only national survey providing critical data about communities

Local News

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — People across the country are filling out the census this year. It’s a count of everyone living in the U.S. and it only happens every 10 years.

The census affects everything from local school funding to congressional representation. However, some households get randomly chosen every month to fill out another, more detailed survey, the American Community Survey. It goes out to just a small handful of households, but it can make a big impact.

“Please, please fill out both,” said Ashley Reynolds Jackson, who is a member of the Virginia Complete Count Commission and encourages census participation in Central Virginia. “The census is critically important because that is how we get an official count of our population. It helps determine congressional representation, and also that apportionment of federal funding.”

The census includes 10 questions and asks for basic information like race, ethnicity, and age. However, the Census Bureau also conducts the American Community Survey, which goes into much more detail.

“It’s going to ask about everything from education to transportation to internet access,” said Reynolds Marshall, “and the reason why the census conducts this particular survey is because it can provide current information to communities every year versus every ten years getting this bulk of information.”

Some questions include what kind of building you live in, if you have access to hot and cold running water, etc., which helps local governments address serious issues.

“It’s telling us about our community,” said Lynchburg Vice Mayor Beau Wright. “It’s telling us about ourselves. And if we don’t understand ourselves, how can we possibly design solutions for our problems?”

The deadline to fill out the census is October, and it won’t come around again for another ten years.

Only about 3.5 million households in the U.S. get the Community Survey each year.

“Please fill out your census,” said Wright, “and you are one of the lucky few to receive the American Community Survey, please do fill that out too.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of Friday, July 3, about two-thirds of Virginia households have completed the census so far. That gives Virginia the seventh highest response rate in the country.

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