The past couple of weeks have been like none we’ve ever seen in this country. Entire cities, including PACO’s own hometown of Chicago, have shut down as people try to keep from spreading a pandemic deadlier than any we’ve seen in a hundred years. This experience is showing us many things about ourselves and our communities, some more obvious than others – one of the less obvious may be just how important it is for everyone to fill out the Census next month.
With fears stemming from the coronavirus pandemic still likely to be strong through the summer, it’s likely that follow-up visits from Census workers won’t be able to reach everyone. And if we’re all still sheltering in place, those follow-up visits may not happen at all. That means it’s more important than ever for people to respond online when they have the opportunity.
Why does an accurate count matter so much? To begin, as local, state, and federal governments all try to allocate resources to fight the coronavirus pandemic and its aftereffects, they need a guide to help them understand where those resources are needed. To help them understand who was affected and how badly. To understand where money needs to go to help individuals weather the crisis, and to help communities recover from it.
Which is to say, they need to know where the people are.
Of course it’s not just a matter of recovering from disasters like pandemics and hurricanes and such. The Census helps direct funds for schools and roads, for fire departments and hospitals, and of course to determine representation in Congress and state legislatures. Businesses use the information as they plan where to build or expand, and try to understand who they’re serving. Food banks and other community assistance organizations rely on census data to figure out where they’re needed.
Without accurate information, none of those efforts work as well as they should. In particular, communities that are undercounted wind up getting underserved. That means lower school quality, fewer teachers and first responders, older infrastructure, and a harder time getting anything done about any of it.
It’s also worth taking some time to think about this as marketers. We all know the vital importance of accurate information when it comes to making decisions. But there’s also the flipside to consider – how do we best use the information that we have, especially when we know it’s not complete. How can we discover where folks have been undercounted, how do we test what we think we’ve learned, and how do we account for the discrepancies in our efforts? All of which is to say: how do we make sure we include people who weren’t accounted for?
These are questions we wouldn’t have to ask if everyone answered the Census. We at PACO believe strongly in the importance of inclusion, not just in marketing but in all aspects of life. The first step in being included is letting the world know you exist.
When the Census comes, let America know you’re here.