Question: Is it ethical for cities, universities, or other entities to offer cash prizes in exchange for participating in the 2010 Census?
The following comes from DailyNorthwestern.com:
City, Northwestern offer incentives for completing 2010 census forms
By Katie Park
Northwestern and Evanston have teamed up to provide cash incentives for students to fill out the 2010 census, which will be available for students on campus next week.
While students living off campus should have already received their census forms in the mail, census workers will distribute the forms to students in dormitories next Monday through Thursday, said Lucile Krasnow, NU special assistant for community relations.
“Students might be asking, ‘Am I really a resident of Evanston?’” Krasnow said. “It’s where you live the majority of the year. They should indeed fill out the census in Evanston.”
With the last census in 2000, the University saw about a 98-percent participation rate, Krasnow said. Students filled out the census form as part of their on-campus housing process, a system that no longer exists.
Instead, the University will award cash prizes to residence halls, fraternities and sororities with the highest participation rates, Krasnow said. Dorms with up to 85 people will be eligible for a $250 cash prize, dorms with 86 to 150 people will be eligible for a $500 prize and dorms with more than 150 residents will be eligible for a $750 prize, she said.
Greek houses will meet with census workers throughout the month of April to distribute the forms. The fraternity and sorority with the highest participation rates will each be eligible for a $250 prize.
“The idea is to encourage everybody to take part in the census,” Krasnow said. “It’s a very quick, easy form, and it’ll take less than 10 minutes to fill out.”
McCormick sophomore June Choi lives on campus and said the participation competition was not an incentive for her.
“I was going to fill it out anyway,” Choi said. “I would think people would just write it up. It’s really short.”
In addition to developing the competition for student residents, Krasnow has worked with Downtown Evanston, a group of local businesspeople and property owners, to develop an event for both students and Evanston residents. During Community Savings Weekend, April 9-11, more than 20 Evanston businesses will offer discounts to thank residents for their participation in the census.
“The idea is that—it’s on the honor system—we hope you did fill out your form,” said Downtown Evanston Executive Director Carolyn Dellutri. “(The census has) a big impact on the community overall, and we’re doing it as a partnership with the city and University.”
SESP senior Daniel Diorio said he was interested in the discount program.
“I’m a fan of incentives for anything,” he said. “I never thought of businesses having interests invested in the census.”
Diorio lives off campus and said he has already sent in his form.
“It’s a no-brainer,” he said. “It helps the government allocate resources more effectively, and it’s only five minutes of my time.”
Census workers will follow up with students living off campus who do not fill out their forms, Krasnow said.
Each NU student counted in the census will bring about $980 per year to the city of Evanston for the next 10 years, Krasnow said. This money can finance federal and state initiatives such as transportation programs, student loans and grants.
“We really see this as part of our civic responsibilities,” Krasnow said.