If you are of a certain age, you learned about the U.S. census from Moe, Larry and Curly.
“No Census, No Feeling,” The Three Stooges’ parody of census takers in 1940, was probably the first and only contact with the census we had.
While the Stooges’ parading with long books and pencils was amusing, the real census about to kickoff is not being done for chuckles.
It’s about numbers.
And it’s about money.
The U.S. government wants to know how many of us there are, where we are and what we do. It doesn’t include a column for LSU fans to be counted, but that would be a nice addition.
First the numbers.
Once we have been counted, either by emailing in the survey or by an actual census taker, those numbers will decide a lot of things.
How many members we get to send to the U.S. House of Representatives is one of those things, based on an equal number of people in each congressional district.
Population numbers tell us where people are living, where they are moving to and where they left.
That can decide where new roads are built, or which roads get improved first, or where hospitals are needed; follow the people, planners would say.
Then there is the money.
Grants galore come from the state and federal governments, but those who read all the applications want to get the most “bang for their buck.”
The more people who live where you are, the better the chance of winning a grant for recreation or health-care services or education needs or bicycle paths.
And if you know how to read a census, you can learn something.
A few years back, the 1940 census was released, opened to the public.
This writer found it on the Internet, did some scrolling and clicking to find Raceland in Lafourche Parish.
It only took looking at three streets to find my mom’s family.
For the first time I learned my grandfather was a WPA worker. The Works Progress Administration built things to give men work in the Depression.
An uncle was a butcher; another uncle was a carpenter; an aunt was a seamstress. My aunts and uncles ranged from 5 to 23; my mom only 17.
What struck me was seeing my uncles’ names and knowing that in less than two years, they would be off in the Army.
Cajuns who spoke French found themselves in the European Theater, usually the point man leading their infantry company.
City and parish governments know numbers influence state agencies. State officials know numbers influence federal agencies.
And everyone loves numbers in Washington, D.C.
Rumors already are floating about the “secret” plans for the census and what “government” really wants to know.
The census goes back to the Founding Fathers, who decided they needed to know how many of us were around.
It’s just a count, really.
Consider it a compliment that the census thinks we are important enough to include us.