The Golden Standard of Data

by | Nov 7, 2019 | Billie's Blog, Church and Society

Photo by Barry Doyle

Billie Fidlin, Director of Outreach & Justice

Since being appointed by Bishop Hoshibata to the Governor’s Arizona Complete Count Faith-Based Subcommittee for Census 2020, it has been interesting, to say the least! On October 22nd I took a tour of the U.S. Census Bureau Paper Data Capture Center – West. Totally fascinating. This was part of an informational event to answer any and all questions about the Census, and more so to answer questions about jobs and the hiring process with the goal of recruiting temporary workers for positions beginning in the spring of 2020. Jobs critical to ensure a complete and accurate census count. Salaries range from $16.50 – $30.00/hour. Let your folks know. https://2020census.gov/en/jobs.html Peak recruiting efforts are occurring now.

You can watch a video of the press conference at https://www.census.gov/newsroom/census-live.html. The tour itself took attendees through the process: from the opening of the envelope through the sorting, scanning (at lightning speed!) to the shredding of the forms. High tech indeed.

The Census is pretty biblical in nature when you think about it. Being counted at the time of Jesus’s birth… the whole Book of Numbers – you can make the connection to census taking. But in contemporary society, why is this important to US, as the church?

During the last Census count, statistically, churches were able to reach more ‘hard to count’ populations than any other source. The churches throughout the nation were directly responsible for helping define population numbers that would, in turn, help the government to allocate billions of dollars toward federal state & community funding. Some federally funded programs are designated to aid vulnerable populations such as WIC, Section 8 housing, etc. But the funding also goes to communities to help with things like highway planning and construction. The Census count affects ALL of us. Of the $675 billion dollars noted in the national budget – even Medicare Part B is a recipient. The more money available through the Census funding, the better for those of us who work in mission. This is an opportunity to widen the funnel of funding to Arizona & Nevada. The Census also gives population figures that are then used in redistricting – the redrawing of Congressional and state legislative districts.

For the first time, there are four ways to respond: secure internet, by phone, by mail, or in-person interview. The upcoming Census will be available in 13 languages for those who make their responses either online or by phone. The paper mailer will be in both English and Spanish. In-person interviews will also occur, such as with the reservations in Arizona, particularly in the rural areas. People counted in the Census include citizens, legal immigrants, undocumented immigrants, non-citizen long term visitors, inmates, homeless  – i.e. all those who represent living in a given region.

A person’s data is fully secure. The responses are protected by federal law. One’s answers can ONLY be used to produce statistics. They cannot be used against a person – any person – in any way. “By law, all responses to the U.S. Census Bureau household and business surveys are kept completely confidential.” (Title 13 / U.S. Code). Any violation comes with a penalty of up to $250,000 and/or up-to 5 years in prison. Title 44 of the U.S. Code allows the National Archives and Records Administration to release census records ONLY after 72 years have passed.

The Census website offers all kinds of data that we can access, demographics that can help with church planning, programming, and revitalization. Topics such as economics, poverty, income, age, race, education, etc. are covered. And so much more. https://www.census.gov/data.html

Specifically as the church, we can:

  • Highlight the 2020 Census in meetings, announcements, emails, bulletins, newsletters & mailings to increase the awareness of why the Census is important.
  • Link to <2020Census.gov> on your web site.
  • Include 2020 Census messages on social media.
  • Write a blog, op-ed or letter to the editor on why it is important to participate.

We hear repeatedly that the messenger is so important in building trust in participation. Visit www.2020census.gov/partners to learn more.

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Author: Billie K. Fidlin

Billie K. Fidlin is the Director of Outreach & Justice for the Desert Southwest Conference. She is a graduate of Western Michigan University and attended Claremont School of Theology for religious studies. Ms. Fidlin currently serves as the President of the Arizona Faith Network in her second term. She is President & Founder of Whisper n Thunder Inc., and sits on various boards including the Justa Center and the Phoenix Police Department's Faith Advisory Council. Her awards include the UM Foundation for Evangelism 2004 Distinguished Evangelist; 2016 Church Women United / United Nations Human Rights Award; 2018 Servant Leader Award AZ Faith Network; 2022 Southern Poverty Law Center Certificate of Recognition; and 2022-23 Class of Who's Who in America.
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