Being 16 in Minnesota. See 100 years of change.

Guide to the 2010 Census

Every 10 years, the U.S. government mails a census form to every home in America and does its best to count every person.

Why bother? Why don’t some people want to be counted? And what do all those numbers tell us about our country and how it’s changing?

This month, as census forms arrive in the mail, ThreeSixty writers answer those questions and more. We invite you to explore the articles and graphics, then leave a comment and share this work with a friend. Your opinion counts – just like every person in America.

I never chose my race, other people did it for me

In the middle of ninth grade, my family moved from suburban Shoreview to St. Paul. I transferred to Arlington High School, a school with significantly fewer white kids, and more black and mixed-raced kids than I’d known before. The kids would make fun of me for things harder to change than my hair – my light skin, my suburban accent, my mostly Asian and white friends, and my punk style. They thought I acted like a white kid.

My parents had taught me all my life that I was black, but now, I was white.

Confused about race? So is the Census

In 1990, Robert Lilligren had to choose whether to check American Indian or white on the census form. Even though he is both, the census form only allowed him to choose one.

What does the census ask and why?

The 2010 census is the shortest in its 220 year history, said Minnesota State Demographer Tom Gillaspy. It only asks 10 questions this decade.

Census puts a lot at stake -- $4 trillion and a vote in Congress

The census, first required in 1790, is — as Minnesota State Demographer Tom Gillaspy says — “the very core of being American.” When we were fighting the Revolutionary War, we were fighting for representation, and that’s exactly what the census has set out to do – represent us by counting us.

Essay: Reporter Ariel Nash on mission to learn more about her black culture after reporting story about achievement gap

In my sociology class, our teacher suggested that Mr. Favor broke up the student body because of the achievement gap. We students argued that it couldn’t have been that bad.

The teacher went over to the computer and put up MCA-II math and reading scores broken up by race. The room went silent. In 2008, among Cooper students who took the statewide math test, 21 percent of Asian, 20 percent of Hispanic and 43 percent of white students scored high enough to be considered proficient. For black students, only 4 percent did that well.

After staring at the scores and waiting for the shock to wear off, my mind did a complete 180. I no longer felt that breaking the student body up by race was a bad thing. If I, as a senior, felt embarrassed for my peers to see that my race was at the bottom of the chart, imagine how the younger students would take it.

Divide to conquer achievement gap

A principal separates students by race to expose difference in test scores.

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