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Contributed By:

Sarah Mollner

Questioning the Census Boxes

OPB | March 15, 2010 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 9:18 p.m.

Every ten years the U.S. Census Bureau tries to identify everyone in America. The Bureau’s goal is to get a “snapshot” of the country. This year, the Census is partnering with 200,000 community organizations to get the word out — from creating public service announcements to reach specific communities, to just going door-to-door and talking to people.

There’s a lot at stake. Historically, the Census determines how many representatives states should have in Congress (Washington could be up for an additional House district.) But the Census has come to mean much more than that. The count determines how much money the federal government distributes through scores of state and local programs.

There are a few changes for 2010. You’ll only be asked to fill out the Short Form — just ten questions. And for the first time, gays and lesbians can check the “married” box and the data will be counted, rather than thrown out. This is only the second time people will be allowed to check more than one box for race or ethnicity, and you can write in your race if you don’t see it listed.

How accurate of a snapshot does the Census create? How do you categorize yourself? How do the categories on the 2010 Census reflect your sense of racial, ethnic or sexual identity?

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