Getting the Count Right this Time

Ten minutes to answer ten questions that will last ten years. In March, the 2010 Census will arrive in mailboxes throughout the Houston area. Mayor Annise Parker is calling on the business and religious communities to do their part to help get everyone counted. Pat Hernandez has more.

More than 130-million households will receive a census form and simply put, it is a count of everyone in the United States. Rice University sociology professor Stephen Klineberg studies Houston's changing population. He calls the bayou city ground zero of the demographic revolution that is transforming America.

"Had it not been for the immigration, Harris County would have lost population. We would have had the same fate  as major cities that have lost population, instead Houston is one of those vibrant, rapidly growing cities, purely because of its attraction to immigrants coming to Houston from Asia, Latin America Africa and the Caribbean."

Klineberg calls the 2010 census critical.

"That's the basis under which number one, we know who we are, we know what our issues are, we know how we've been changing, and we can begin to integrate that into our thinking as we reposition Houston for success in the 21st century, but above all else it has to do with money, and money is a big factor. We have lost money every year because of the undercount that happened in 2000."

More than 400-billion dollars is given to state and local governments each year based on census data. Margaret Wallace with Houston's Planning Department, says the Census Bureau believes it conducted an accurate count 10-years ago, but probably missed a significant number of people.

"Many, many studies have been done since then that shows that there was an undercount, anywhere from a couple thousand to fifty thousand to more in the Houston area. The estimate is that between the years 2000 and 2010, the Houston community gave up about 240-million dollars because of that undercount. We believe that's critically important."

Important not only in allocating federal dollars for local programs from infrastructure to banks to hospitals and schools, but representation. Houston Mayor Annise Parker says the census is about money, power and pride.

"Money's the most important. In terms of power, we know that we're going to redistrict, that Texas is gonna gain congressional seats. We believe Houston deserves a seat. How we determine where that seat is, that's our power in Washington, that's all based on the census. And then finally, pride, we believe we're the third largest city in America, not the fourth, and we'd like to prove that." 

Mayor Parker says the ten questions contained in the census form will take ten minutes to answer and will affect public and private decisions for the next decade.

"This needs to preached from the pulpits. We just need to know that you're here, and we can't do it from the government side, it has to come from community organizations."

More information on the 2010 Census can be found at http://www.houstontx.gov/census2010/index.html.
 

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...