The United States of America has been conducting a national census since 1790. Every year, residents are ordered to submit information about the people in their families to the government, via mail or phone. The first census entailed local officers going door to door and recording information about the head of household, along with the number of free white children, women and slaves.
This year, the census was supposed to be online, and expected to have record-high participation, especially among traditionally underrepresented populations. However, the coronavirus pandemic caused a delay of four months.
Traditionally, women are less likely to participate in the census.
WHY ARE WOMEN LESS LIKELY TO PARTICIPATE?
The Census Bureau found in 2018 that the number of women intending to participate in the census was smaller than the number of men. Moreover, Hispanic, black and Asian-American women were even less likely than white women to say they’re “extremely likely” to participate. Asian-American women the least certain about their intent to participate.
The simple explanation for this gap is that women already have a lot on their plate. According to Dr. Catherine Harnois, women’s intent to fill out the census may be affected by their lack of discretionary hours. Dr. Harnois is a sociologist at Wake Forest University. Those who work outside their houses still have to take care of their families after returning from their offices.
This has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Not only do they have to work from home, but they also have to take care of their families, who are now home the entire day.
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But this has far-reaching consequences.
Data obtained through the census is used to navigate nearly $1 trillion in federal spending. This includes various services targeted at women, such as grants for the prevention of family/gender-based violence, nutritional programs for women, etc.
“It’s important for so many women’s issues, like the health and nutrition of children and their paths out of cycles of domestic violence,” said Maria Olmedo-Malagon. Olmedo-Malagon manages the 2020 Census Integrated Partnership and Communications office.
Inadequate female participation would mean that “the right benefits won’t be matched with the right people,” Maria added.