F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines
Week of:
January 2, 2000
Change the Questions, Not the Count

F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

Democrats want to change the manner in which the census is taken. Let's change the questions instead.

The Official 1990 U.S. Census Form offered several permutations of relative and non-relative to describe the relationship to the respondent of the various occupants of the household, ranging from husband/wife and son/daughter to housemate/roommate and unmarried partner. Why not get with the times and offer three ultra-contemporary alternatives instead: Significant other; Insignificant other; and Significant bother? Rather than the multiplicity of ethnicity that the 1990 Census offered, how about two all-encompassing options: Minorities; and Those who wish they were minorities?

The 1990 Census wanted to know if any of the occupants was "of Spanish/Hispanic origin?" It didn't explain, however, exactly what the difference is between Spanish and Hispanic. Can a person be one and not the other? If not, why confuse everybody? Also, should a person classify himself as Hispanic even if his family has lived in America since the founding of St. Augustine, Florida in 1565? And what about Xavier Cugat fans and Taco Bell employees; do they qualify as Hispanic?

The 1990 Census asked numerous questions about the accommodations of the household, such as "Do you have COMPLETE plumbing facilities?" But how complete is COMPLETE? Does that include a bidet? And why was COMPLETE capitalized? Maybe the next Official Census could pursue this line of inquiry by soliciting information regarding personal hygiene, such as how often the respondent takes a bath: Daily; Every Saturday; or, Only for special occasions? Does the phrase "COMPLETE kitchen facilities" include salad spinners, hot-air popcorn poppers, and the number for Domino's programmed into the speed-dial function of the cordless phone?

The 1990 Census wanted to know if each person in the household was "a CITIZEN of the United States?" Since the 1996 election, at least in Bob Dornan's district, seemed to indicate some confusion on this point, perhaps the next Census should remind respondents that no alien can be considered a citizen of the United States no matter how much foreign aid his homeland receives, that a member of the U.S. ruling elite is still an American citizen and not a citizen of the world, and that -- for the purposes of this Census -- one should disregard the question of whether or not the United States, as originally conceived by our Founding Fathers, even exists anymore.

Instead of asking how much school each person has COMPLETED, Question 12 should determine what has been learned: How to waste his parents' money; How to engage in safe sex; or, How to answer impertinent questions on long, complicated forms. Question 21 (Did this person work at any time LAST WEEK?) should offer a more honest selection of answers: He was employed, but he didn't do any work; He worked, but it took three full-time employees to correct everything he did wrong; or, He's a Congressman (and we wish he hadn't worked).

Question 33 (What was this person's total income in [the previous year]?) should allow for one response only: None of your business!

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