Los Angeles lost more than $200 million of federal funding because 78,000 residents did not fill out the 2000 census, officials estimated.
The officials, who do not want to repeat the past, are working hard to get USC counted.
Population is important because it determines the number of congressional representatives for each area and the distribution of $400 billion of federal money for public work projects such as hospitals, bridges and tunnels. The U.S. census counts every resident in the United States and must take place every 10 years, as required by the Constitution.
The first deadline to turn in the census form is April 1.
“It costs money if you don’t fill out the form because if you don’t, someone will have to knock on your door and ask if you need help filling it out,” said Koni Silva Botifoll, a media specialist at the Los Angeles office of the U.S. Census Bureau. “And they will keep coming back until July.”
For every 1 percent increase in the response rate, taxpayers can save $85 million in postage and other expenses, which explains why the U.S. Census Bureau took 13 vans across the country to educate America about the census and even ran an ad during the Super Bowl.
Students who live on campus, including international students, should be counted as living in Los Angeles, said Virginia Jimenez, a partnership specialist with the U.S. Census in Los Angeles. She added that the census is working with the resident advisers in their dorms to get the count right. Off-campus students should be counted in the form that is sent to every household.
To help with that effort, the USC Unruh Institute opened a Questionnaire Assistance Center on March 25 in the Leavey Library lobby. A USC student volunteer will be at the center four days a week until April 19 to help fill out the census forms and answer questions.
“Students assume parents are supposed to count them,” said Marilyn Katzman, a USC junior majoring in international relations and psychology, who is coordinating the center as part of an internship with the USC Unruh Institute. “But if you are a college student living away from home, you are supposed to count yourself individually because you are not with your parents.”