Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, February 1, 2010

U-M census contest aimed at college students, parents

U-M today launched a contest aimed at increasing student participation in the 2010 Census.

The contest, sponsored by the Office of the Provost and the Institute for Social Research (ISR), offers $3,000 in prizes for short videos designed to spur student participation in the coming census. Details are available on the contest Web site: census.umich.edu.

“Videos are a great way to get across the important message that for college and university students, their census residence is their dorm, apartment, or rented housing — not their parents’ home,” ISR Director James S. Jackson says.

Historically, student neighborhoods in Ann Arbor and other college towns have some of the worst mail response rates for census forms. This can result in lower population counts for affected cities, counties and states, less funding from federal agencies, and less representation in state and federal governments.

Contest organizers hope the video contest will inspire U-M students to get the message across to peers that college students count. The videos will be available on YouTube and U-M Web sites. They also will be available to area television stations and other colleges and universities.

Jackson notes that the video ad contest provides a way to support the outreach efforts of the U.S. Census Bureau, directed by Robert Groves, former director of the ISR Survey Research Center. Census forms are scheduled to be mailed to university and college students starting in March.

The deadline for video contest entries is March 8.

Among the messages contest organizers hope the videos will convey:

• A student’s census residence is where they live and sleep most of the time as of April 1, not their parents’ home.

• Students who are graduating and planning to leave the city, state or country where they go to school still should fill out the census form sent to their campus-area residence.

• Students who are not U.S. citizens should complete and mail back the census forms they receive while at school.

• Everyone in a student’s household should be listed on the census forms as long as they have no other usual place of residence.

• It doesn’t matter who is listed as “head of household”; what matters is that everyone is counted, just once.

• Census information is confidential and never shared with other government agencies, or with parents, who may not know about student living arrangements or roommates.

• Parents of college students who live away from home during the academic year should not list students as household members on parental census forms.

“We’re confident that U-M students will be able to get these key messages across in a way that is both accurate and creative,” Jackson says.