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Plan to participate in Census

For many years, our region has struggled to keep its young people from leaving to seek higher-paying jobs and a better quality of life in other parts of the country.

That exodus has been reflected in the annual population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau. It recently came to light, however, that even those young people who are living here among us may not be included among the bureau’s count.

According to Flite Freimann, executive director of the Washington County Department of Job and Family Services in Marietta, the Census Bureau is concerned that children were undercounted during the 2010 Census — and officials fear that may happen again during the 2020 population tally. Friemann said the bureau strongly suspects that about 1 million children were missed during the 2010 count. In our region, he said the undercounting may be attributed to the self-reliant character of residents of Appalachia.

It also may be due to fear for family members’ well-being and to distrust of the government.

Although Marietta and much of Washington County is a couple of hours’ drive to our south, that area is very similar to the local Ohio counties of Belmont, Monroe, Harrison and Jefferson. People of both places have jobs, lives and heritages that have a great deal in common. So it stands to reason that attitudes are similar as well.

We know that, like in Washington County, we have “transient” children here — children who live part-time with one parent and part-time with someone else. When the Census workers knock on doors, grandparents may not report a child lives with them because it is not a full-time arrangement. A part-time parent may not report a child living with them, for fear that doing so might hurt their ability to receive aid or to retain the custody rights they have. That is not the case, since Census data on individuals remains confidential for decades.

Such a lack of reporting leads to the population of our region being underestimated. In turn, that means we will receive fewer federal dollars and less representation among lawmakers than we are actually entitled to.

As the 2020 Census approaches, we urge residents to participate fully and to report on everyone living with their families. That will help ensure that our area actually receives the funding and the voice it deserves.

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