All Census, All the Time
I learned from the Census Bureau’s advertising launch today that the bureau will be the top advertiser in the United States during the next few weeks. Agency officials intend to bombard the average person with pro-census messages 42 times.
The gargantuan campaign won’t end when the census forms are released. According to the Census Project’s website, some meteorologists will be reporting local census response rates along with high temperatures and the chance of rain.
Why the sudden onslaught of publicity for something that the country has always done every 10 years? The bureau is touting its campaign as “unprecedented,” as though this year’s census were different from previous counts and required a radically new approach. I noticed that sentiment in today’s advertising kickoff, particularly when MTV Networks’ executive vice president of public affairs stated that people should participate in the 2010 Census because it will be “the most important count of their lifetimes.” This characterization is puzzling given that we’re going to conduct another census a decade from now.
One thing that I’ll admit sets this census apart is its timing: As the economy slowly pulls out of a deep recession, any large enterprise that generates employment is welcome. Still, it would be unwise to expect the census to have a big effect on the economy, even through its biggest campaign ever. I agree with MyTwoCensus.com’s prediction that the Census Bureau’s hiring won’t spur economic growth because the jobs last only six weeks. Fortunately, no one is lobbying for continuous recounts to make those jobs permanent, the way fans of tax breaks for filmmakers would like Missouri to grant tax credit after tax credit, year round.