FROM THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE – August 2020

The U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 2) requires the Decennial Census for apportioning representatives in our national government, and the Decennial Census has been taking place since 1790. These data are also used for drawing political districts at multiple levels of government, from the local and state to the federal. Census data are used as the basis for a range of other statistics, including population estimates, population projections, and rates of diseases and other health concerns. Furthermore, Census data are used to determine the allocation of funding and to make eligibility decisions for programs addressing health, food assistance, education, workforce development, housing, infrastructure, and environmental protection, just to name a few.

At the start of the 2020 data collection period, it looked like a good year for participation in the Census. The hard work of complete count committees combined with numerous agencies, nonprofits, churches, and businesses working along with Census Bureau staff was proving successful in early self-participation rates. However, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Census efforts in numerous ways, including:

o    Diverted attention and resources from the Census process;

o    Slowed hiring and forced many Census Bureau staff members to work remotely;

o    Made many people temporarily leave their usual place of residence;

o    Halted public outreach and community engagement activities; and,

o    Resulted in alternative 2020 Census timelines.

The overwhelming impact the pandemic and associated economic challenges have presented to our families, communities, state, and nation, it made great sense to extend the data collection period for the Census.

However, just as we are seeing a rise in infection rates in many states, including rural areas, and families are juggling the challenges with back to school schedules, Census Bureau leaders announced the extremely problematic plan to end all Census data collection as of September 30, 2020. We know that state and national response rates are too low for the accurate count that is demanded of us by the Constitution. This is particularly troubling for rural areas where Census participation tends to be lower, especially among those places with high levels of poverty and limited broadband internet access.  In our increasingly data-driven world in the midst of a pandemic, we need more, rather than less, accurate data.

It would be nearly impossible to overstate the point that rural places are particularly vulnerable to the negative outcomes that will result from an undercount of the population. Not only is representation in national government at stake, so too is access to resources for rural development. Given the high levels of poverty that persist coupled with education, health, and infrastructure needs that we would face in “normal times” are now exacerbated by a public health crisis, the pandemic-related low response to the 2020 Census will impact rural America for the next decade, as well as subsequent decades.

As a group of social scientists who understand the importance of accurate data to inform decision making for rural America, leaders of the Rural Sociological Society call on public officials and the U.S. Census Bureau to stop the recently announced plan to end data collection for the 2020 Census on September 30, and to instead adapt and provide the time needed to complete the task of achieving an accurate count of the population.

Executive Committee Rural Sociological Society

August 5, 2020

The Rural Sociological Society (RSS)

The RSS is a professional social science association that promotes the generation, application, and dissemination of sociological knowledge. The Society seeks to enhance the quality of rural life, communities, and the environment. This website is intended to serve all those interested in rural people and places.

We seek and support a diverse and international membership of academics and practitioners who share our interests in rural people and places.

What We Do

The core activities of the Rural Sociological Society are our peer-reviewed journal, Rural Sociology, our annual conference, and support for communities of scholars concerned with specific rural topics. Through these activities, the RSS has provided leadership in scholarship, policies, and advocacy. Since its founding in 1937, the RSS has traced changes in rural life and livelihoods, demography, community structures and economies, technologies, environmental conditions, and agriculture and food systems.

Shared Values at the Rural Sociological Society

In these politically turbulent times we wish to share with others the core values that we believe animate and organize our activities as members and leaders of the Rural Sociological Society (RSS).  We believe in the free expression of ideas, in civil discourse and mutual respect among participants, and in the value of scientific research without political considerations.  We oppose actions and words that demean, exclude, and otherwise marginalize individuals and groups of different genders, races, identities, sexual orientations, and national origins.  We seek to assist vulnerable and marginalized peoples wherever they may be. 

The Benefits of Membership

Why RSS? RSS offers multiple opportunities to interact with others who share your interests in rural places both in the United States and internationally.  We have fourteen Research and Interest Groups. RSS keeps you informed of professional opportunities via our website and monthly eBulletin.  A subscription to our journal Rural Sociology is included with your membership. RSS members receive a discounted registration rate to our Annual Meeting (held late July or August each year).  RSS members take an active part in the program of the annual meeting by submitting posters, papers, panels, and organized sessions. RSS offers leadership opportunities.

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Research and Interest Groups (RIGs)

What are Research and Interest Groups? Research and Interest Groups (RIGs) reflect the substantive interests of RSS Members and serve as an important avenue for connecting members with similar interests.  RIGs serve a critical role in RSS including: identifying, developing, and recruiting for the annual RSS conference; planning special events, speakers, field trips for the annual conference; providing intellectual leadership in their respective areas; rewarding achievement through internal awards and recognitions; and creating opportunities for members, particularly graduate students, to network and identify colleagues with similar interests. 

RSS currently has 14 RIGs. 

More information can be found here