Make certain you are counted

The Census Bureau is preparing  questionnaires for the next census and planning to leave most questions about gender identity and sexual orientation off the forms. This is wrong. It is time for everyone to stand up and insist that populations in our country be accurately counted.

The Census, which every ten years counts every person in the United States, was mandated by the Founding Fathers and has been called a keystone of American democracy. The government uses it to allocate public resources; businesses use it to choose where to invest; and the count affects congressional redistricting.

The U.S. lacks simple, reliable information about the LGBTQ community. How big is it? What is the average income level, life expectancy, or unemployment rate? Without data, policymakers can ignore the entire community and pretend it doesn’t exist.

At national level census information is used to plan the provision of health care, education, employment, transport, etc. It is used to help determine where to build new schools, roads, health care facilities, child-care and senior centers.

The Census is also an important economic tool.  One of the greatest strengths of the census is the provision of detailed population figures at local level. It counts the number of people in each region, county, town and local area and this helps local authorities to make better decisions about the whole range of their activities including the provision of utilities, transport, healthcare requirements and education facilities.

Census data is extensively used by interest and representative groups who have power to influence the authorities in campaigning for the interests of those whom they represent. The use of Census data in the reports and submissions of these groups is a convincing and powerful tool in influencing political and social leaders.

In short, this is about money and representation. If data isn’t collected showing that the the LGBTQ community exists, when it comes time to allocate governmental resources, there will be no basis for awarded those resources to the LGBTQ community.

Understanding the size of the LGBTQ population is a critical first step to informing a host of public policy and research topics. States and governments are often testing grounds for the implementation of new LGBTQ related public policies or can be directly affected by national-level policies. Adding sexual orientation and gender identity questions to national data sources that can provide local-level estimates and to state and  municipal surveys is critical to assessing the potential efficacy and impact of such policies.

The Census Bureau wants to appear neutral and above the fray, but its work is inherently political. Members of the LGBTQ community and all supporters should demand a count in 2020 that is accurate and fair to all.

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