Actually, students do have to fill out the Census 2010 forms

Vox was going to skip the Census-myth-debunking blog post party, but to our surprise, we’ve heard from a lot of students who are under the impression that they don’t have to fill out the 2010 Census because they’ll be listed on their parents’ form, or because without proper voting rights, it doesn’t help out D.C. to be counted, anyway.

False and false.

Even if you’re counted as a dependent on someone else’s tax forms, unless you spend more time living at home than you do living at Georgetown, you and your housemates need to fill out your own Census form and get counted in the District. And actually, there are a couple of ways that being counted as a District resident help D.C. out. To that effect, below is a roundup and debunking of common ‘Census myths.’

Myth: You should be counted on the Census forms at your permanent residence.

Like we said above, not so, unless your home state or parent or guardian’s house is where you spend the majority of your time in a given year.  Otherwise, your Henle owes the government a census form.

The District’s Census website explains that this will not affect things like your voter registration or driver’s license. The Census doesn’t care where you legally reside, just where you spend most of your time.

Oh shit, there’s no Census form in my Residence Hall mailbox.

They’re not there yet, although students in some University townhouses should have already received them. As for Georgetown, University Spokesperson Andy Pino said that forms will be here in the coming weeks.

“Once we have them, Residence Life staff will coordinate with the students in the residence halls to make sure everyone fills out and returns their forms,” he wrote in an e-mail.

After the jump: Why it helps D.C., and why you won’t be counted twice.

Myth: My parents already filled out their form and counted me, so I don’t have to fill out mine, or I’ll be counted twice.

If your parents or guardians already filled out a Census form and put you on it, that does not mean you’re necessarily going to be counted twice. According to the Pew Research Center, this year, the Census Bureau has devised a scheme which it hopes will avoid over-counting that sometimes took place in the past:

“The Census Bureau added a new question to the 2010 Census form: ‘Does Person 1 sometimes live or stay somewhere else?’ For those who answer ‘yes,’ the options include ‘in college housing.’ Census officials hope that the answers to this question will help them determine the correct address for everyone who is counted and avoid counting college students more than once.”

Myth: The District doesn’t have full voting rights, so there’s no reason to fill out the Census form.

So wrong. We Love DC sat down with DC Counts director Maurice Henderson, who gave a pretty thorough explanation for why students count:

“The reason students should be counted where they attend school is because they use local services here in DC. Each year, the Federal Government administers billions of dollars of funds based on census data for things college students use frequently, such as public transportation.

“Additionally, college students are a huge portion of DC’s population, and it’s important that they are counted accurately.  In total, DC’s colleges and universities have a combined enrollment of more than 100,000 students.  That translates to about 1/6th of DC’s total population”

Myth: No seriously, we don’t have voting rights.

Henderson continued:

“The Census isn’t just for representation.  It provides a vast set of statistical information for all kinds of programs and projects.  Each year, the federal government administers more than $400 billion based on census data.  The Brookings Institution broke down the data for fiscal year 2008, and DC’s share was $2.7 billion – or $4,656 per resident, per year.  That’s a lot of money.

“Additionally, private businesses use census data all the time for marketing and business expansion.  If people want a new coffee shop or grocery store in their neighborhood, those businesses need to know where potential customers live.

“Even though the census does not affect DC’s representation in Congress, it does affect DC’s internal political organization.  Just like the rest of the country, DC will evaluate ward, ANC and voting precinct boundaries on the basis of census data.”

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