I cringe when I see sentiments like this one about the U.S. census in The Bee's comment section: "All the government needs to know is my name and how many people live in my house and that's it. There is no need for any other question…"
Even a member of Congress has announced that she intends to boycott. In June, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said, "I know for my family, the only question we will be answering is how many people are in our home. We won't be answering any information beyond that." She is co-sponsoring legislation to limit the census to four questions: name, age, date of response and number of people living in one household.
As any elected official knows (or should know), the census is not just a device to apportion political representation in Congress by population. And it is not just a way to help policymakers distribute federal dollars and decide where schools, highways, hospitals and other services are needed.
It is so much more. The U.S. census provides an essential portrait of who we are as a people and how we live – from 1790 to the present.
The census gives us a person-by-person, family-by-family, street-by-street, community-by-community, state-by-state set of details about Americans. It is not just "America by the Numbers" – an impersonal compendium of population numbers for a statistical atlas.
I know this firsthand as I've delved into family history.
Here's just one small example. From my family's oral history, I knew that my mother's grandfather had left Ireland for New York in 1893 and that he worked for James Butler's Irish neighborhood grocery store chain.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.