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County forms committee for census education

HOUGHTON — With the decennial U.S. Census approaching, the government is looking at ways to reach out to the public to explain its importance.

At Wednesday’s Houghton County Board meeting, the board voted to establish a Complete Count Committee. The volunteer committee, which partners with the U.S. Census Bureau, works to educate area residents about the census.

The census helps to determine how many Congressional seats each state will have, and what local, state and federal districts will look like. Those population figures also determine how much federal money the state and local municipalities receive.

People are counted as residents of wherever they spend the majority of the year, said Commissioner Glenn Anderson, who was appointed as committee chair. Most college students are counted as Houghton County residents, accounting for about 8,000 people in the county. About a third of area college students live in dorms, meaning they are counted automatically, Anderson said.

“Many of them have the impression they don’t need to fill it out because their parents will, and that’s wrong,” Anderson said.

By the time census workers make follow-up visits in the summer, most of the students have moved, Anderson said.

Other problems with undercounting come from residents who leave for warmer climates in the winter.

That can be confusing, since many of them will receive their census survey while at their winter home, Anderson said.

“Then most people assume that wherever they’re living at the moment, that’s what they fill out, which hurts Houghton County,” he said.

The League of Women Voters of the Copper Country will also host an informational session about the 2020 census 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Portage Lake District Library. Presenting will be Richelle Winkler, a Michigan Technological University associate professor of sociology and demography, who also serves on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Scientific Advisory Committee. Formed in 1994, the committee advises the Census Bureau director on uses of scientific developments in areas such as statistical data collection, cognitive psychology and computer science.

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