Oxford works to count all students for 2020 census

By Patrick Keck

This is the year of the federal census and Oxford wants to be sure every resident in the city gets counted, City Manager Douglas Elliott told city council this week.

That means all college students who live in Oxford most of the year should count themselves as Oxford residents on the census forms, Elliott said at council’s meeting Tuesday, Jan. 21. That includes all international students, which make up more than 10% of the university’s enrollment, he said. Even though international students may be citizens of other countries and most of the students consider their “hometown” to be somewhere other than Oxford, they should be counted as Oxford residents because this is where they spend most of their time.

A complete count is important for cities such as Oxford because the count translates into money and representation. Census counts are done every 10 years, in accordance with Article I, Section II of the United States Constitution. The count is the basis for determining how many congressional representatives each state gets, how various funding is dispersed and how other government services may be allocated.

The city has already created a Complete Count Committee and watched a training video earlier this month. However, the federal Census Bureau projects it still needs about 750 employees in Southwest Ohio. Many of those employees will be used to go door-to-door in an effort to count people who have not responded to earlier requests.

Elliott said he will report on progress of the local census during upcoming council meetings and that reminders about the census will be included in the utility bills sent to local residents.

“The Census is really the official population count for your community and it determines your number of elected officials,” said Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene, adding that decisions on state and federal funding are made through its results.

By April 1, every home in Oxford will receive an invitation to participate in the Census, said Elliott. For the first time, citizens will be able to answer census forms online. They also can respond by mail or by telephone, he said.

Questions on the census forms ask such things as the number, ages and genders of everyone living in a home; whether the home is rented or owned; the racial and ethnic identifications of those in the home; incomes and other details used to break down the demographics of the population.

Five mailings will be sent from the Census Bureau, advertising and educating the public, prior to the door-knockings. Greene said mailings are the preferred form of responding.

“We’re really hoping people will respond when it initially comes out,” said Greene. “By the time they get to the in-person door knockers, the students are usually gone.”

With its transient population, measuring who is a resident in Oxford can be complicated. Greene said Oxford is considering sending out census forms in Chinese this year in an effort to get a greater response from the international student population.

The city divides the population into three groups: the year-round population and Miami students who are placed in either on-campus or off-campus categories.

Some people resist being counted because they are concerned about the government collecting their personal information, Greene said. But the goal of the count is to gather blocks of data, not identify individuals, she said.

“Your data, personally, is not being shared with anyone,” said Greene. “It is an aggregate collection of information about a community.”

According to the US Census Bureau, the hourly pay rate for Census takers in Butler County is $19.50 per hour. Those wishing to apply for a position can visit this link: https://recruitment.2020census.gov/ats/careersite/census.aspx?site=1&c=census