Census efforts target students, minorities

City efforts to promote census participation aimed at hard-to-reach groups like students.

Illustrated by Abby Adamski

Image by Abby Adamski

Illustrated by Abby Adamski

by Emma Dill

A year before the 2020 census begins, the City of Minneapolis and neighborhood groups near the University of Minnesota campus are promoting census participation among students, a traditionally hard-to-reach population.

Census data helps determine congressional redistricting and government grants to fund neighborhood improvements in Minnesota communities. Efforts leading up to Census 2020 aim to educate students and minority communities in Minneapolis about completing the census so government data will represent local communities more accurately. Minneapolis kicked off its efforts Monday at a gathering of residents and neighborhood groups. 

City and state officials have developed Complete Count committees, groups of representatives from various cultural backgrounds who will direct outreach efforts. In addition, the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association hopes to develop a new census committee to educate students, said Vic Thorstenson, MHNA president.

“It’s a common misconception that students [hold], that they count at their parents’ home. And international students, for example, may think that the census doesn’t apply to them because they’re international. The fact is the census doesn’t apply to citizens. It applies to people,” said Thorstenson.

Residents should fill out the census for the address they live in on April 1, 2020, he said. Census 2020 is the first count that will allow people to fill out census forms online.

However, many students and their parents are often confused about the process.

“Actually, one of the most over-counted populations are college students, and that is because they tend to be recorded both at their dorm or wherever they’re residing during college, as well as at their parent’s address. They’re double-counted,” said Janna Johnson, an assistant professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

College students are traditionally difficult for census workers to reach because they are highly mobile, often live in apartments and are a diverse population, said Andrew Virden, director of census operations and engagement at the Minnesota State Demographic Center. During the 2010 census, Virden worked in neighborhoods around the University as a field operations supervisor.

“Some of the most challenging areas that we had in the entire city of Minneapolis was the campus of the University of Minnesota, trying to get to the students,” Virden said.

Thorstenson said he hopes the MHNA census committee will be led by students and will promote census participation through neighborhood canvassing, posters and social media. Thorstenson said he plans to start developing the committee at the beginning of next school year.

“We really need to have people at the block level [and] at the building level who are able to engage people person-to-person, neighbor-to-neighbor to pass the word about the importance of the census and what it means to our communities,” Thorstenson said.

Minneapolis allocated $350,000 toward census engagement efforts in their 2019 budget, one of the highest amounts in the state, said Virden.

Representatives from the University are active at the city and state level in census outreach efforts. Off-campus Living Program Director Kendre Turonie is part of the City’s Complete Count committee. Turonie said the census is one way for students to connect with their community.

“Students don’t always identify themselves as a resident of the neighborhood because they may move around a lot during their time as a student,” Turonie said. “This is a way for students to have their voice count by being counted in the census.”

Editor’s note: Kendre Turonie sits on the Minnesota Daily’s Board of Directors.