Census: Cocktail Chatter

Jeanne Sager

Photo from Queer the Census
Every week in cocktail chatter, we tell you what you need to know to sound like an expert at this weekend's play date, dinner party or post office meeting.

This week's cheat sheet: the census.

What it is: A count of the number of people in America, the census is done every 10 years an is mandated by the U.S. Constitution. The data is used to determine how many people live in each area and can affect the number of representatives your state has in Congress and how much federal funding your area receives for projects.

Terms you need to know:

Census Form: A questionnaire sent to every household in America, the form is how the census count is done. Simply answer the 10 questions, including your name, sex, age, date of birth and ethnicity, and mail it back to the government postage-free.

Census Day: Thursday, April 1, was the date the government wanted you to mail out your census forms, but if you never got a form, there is still time. Contact the Census Bureau for information.

Census Taker: Employees of the government, these folks walk around your neighborhood to drop off forms, explain how to fill them out and sometimes to follow up. They may show up on your doorstep anytime between now and July.

Big Issues:

Race: In an effort to assuage some concerns about race representation, the form was changed this year to include a question asking if people are of Hispanic origin. But the following question, which asks for a person's race, does not include Hispanic as a choice. While the form allows you to check more than one box in the 15 different race options, there is also no biracial or mixed race option. People who don't find an ethnicity they feel fits have to fill in a space for "some other race."

Queer the Census: There's no question on the census form that asks for a person's sexuality, but bright pink Queer the Census stickers are available to place on the envelope before your form is returned to the government. There's also a petition to sign to encourage LGBT people be counted.

Phrases to drop:

"It's against the law not to fill out your census form."

"They use the census information to determine where $400 billion in federal funding goes."

"College kids don't count in their hometowns anymore! They have to fill out their own census form."

Did you send your form out?

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