Being Counted

Jorge's picture

In Costa Rica, as in many other places, this year is a census year. I intend to do everything possible to avoid being counted.

My experience with the census started in 1970, when my parents received "the long form" (for lack of a better name). I recall my father feeling important because "they" wanted to know all about him. I saw the form and felt creeped out. It asked things like how many bathrooms in the house, how many TVs you owned, etc. I remember thinking that this was none of their business.

Fast forward to 1980. I wasn't thinking about the census at all. I believe it was in early May and I moved. The landlady told me that I just missed the census taker, but she had told him that someone was moving in, and I was to fill out a form if I hadn't already. I lied and told her that I did it at the last apartment. In 1980 I was not counted.

Skipping forward another 10 years to 1990. Annie and I are living in Hong Kong. As we leave our apartment one day a young woman is at our door. She identifies herself as a census taker. I say that we are just visiting, taking care of the apartment for a friend who is out of town. She hands us a form and asks that our friend mail it in. When I get around to looking at it I find a box that says "property vacant". I mark it and send it in. 1990, still not counted.

In 2000 we had just moved to Costa Rica. The census was announced in the papers, and all over. A few months later the government announced that it was over and published numbers. No one came to our house, or even dropped off a form. I asked around the neighborhood, and no one saw a census taker. Excellent.

I am happy to say that in my adult life I have never been counted by a census. My children have never been counted.

I am not one for New Year's resolutions, but this year I am making one. My family and I will not be counted by the census.

A good one.

Hey, there’s a new year’s resolution even I can fully embrace! Thanks, Jorge.

I’m sure I was counted as a child in the ‘70 census; likely not in ‘80, as I was in college; and I don’t remember what happened in 1990. I do recall 2000 quite clearly, though, as we’d visited someone who was a census volunteer, and a True Believer: she could not understand why Lobo and I weren’t longing to get the long form, nor our objections to the entire enterprise. For her it was all about getting more govmoney.

We have had a preliminary snoop come around already ... in November, I think it was. As we’ll be moving again this year, I’m hopeful we can avoid being counted—and like you, I hope I can keep the snolfs from being counted for as long as they live with me.

Funny, I was just thinking about this ...

I've never been counted as an adult either. They've never even pursued me ... no phone calls, no follow-ups whatsoever. But I'm a little anxious about this new American Community Survey with its 20-something pages of intrusive financial questions and the reputed harassment of non-filers. Here's hoping none of us receive that stupid form.

Happy 2010


I recall reading something about that survey, but hadn’t really paid much attention. Things like that show clearly how little regard is given to the Constitution any more.

I remember

I actually can't remember ever agreeing to more than telling them how many people lived in the house... but I do remember the 2000 census. I'd mailed the form with just the number of occupants... 1 ... then someone came to my gate to clear up my little "misunderstanding" and insist that the questions were all REQUIRED.

I told the woman to go away, casually adding that if she actually came through my gate she'd be greeted by the dog - and I didn't intend to introduce them. Then I went into the house.

Lucky for her, probably, the gate was locked. She left and that was the end of it.

I did give the dog an extra bone and a good scratch later. He probably didn't understand any of the muttering. [grin]

I just don't know what I'll say if they come 'round

Part of me thinks I should say absolutely nothing (anything you say can and will be used against you) part of me wants to say my protest.

I'm really amazed that some people think it's OK to insist other people categorize themselves by race - literally under threat. Makes my skin crawl.

Mama, I like your toughness.


Protest by saying nothing. Remember, any overt protest is probably a waste of time. Think of the millions of people who sent in letters, etc. to "protest" the bailouts, or the socialization of the rest of our healthcare system. Totally ignored.

You don't have to sic the dog on them, just be firm and do NOT engage in any conversation. Close the door, hang up the phone, say NO and mean it.

And don't worry about the "penalties," really. I suspect that so many people will refuse to answer the questions that there are not enough cops in the world to do anything about it.

The question about race is only one tiny part of what's wrong with this whole idea. Just remember, NONE of it is any of their damned business. :)

This reminds me of the

This reminds me of the uproar over the German census of 1987 (most Germans refused to participate, which may come as a shock to many Americans). There was a cute comic in one of the underground newspapers showing 2 men chained to a dungeon wall.
The first asks the second, "What are you in for?"
Answer: "Refusing to answer the census. What are you in for?"
"Answering the census questions."

Received mine

in the mail last month, marked 00 in the 'number of residents' field and sent it back.