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This coming spring the Census Bureau will survey every household in America. There’s a whole lot of information to gather. The real trick is getting people to answer the questions. Latinos, for example, tend not to participate. Reporter Elizabeth Threlkeld tells us the Census Bureau is trying to reach them in an unconventional way.
Elizabeth Threlkeld: Fans of Telemundo’s most popular Spanish soap opera — Mas Sabe el Diablo — are used to intrigue, deception, and passion. But tonight’s show sets a different tone. The Census Bureau and Telemundo are teaming up. Telemundo is having actress Michelle Vargas land a job as a Census worker on the telenovela. Over the next few months, she’ll go door to door on the show, teaching characters how to fill out census forms and answering their questions.
BOB GROVES: It’s a wonderful way to get the message out because it’s entertaining
That’s U.S. Census Director Bob Groves.
GROVES: People associate with the characters in the telenovela, and the information being delivered is delivered in a way that many people find attractive and credible.
The latest census survey counted nearly 47 million Hispanics in the U.S. But Latino groups say the real number is much higher. Since census figures are used to channel hundreds of billions in government funding to schools, health-care providers, and community programs, the Latino community often misses out. Vargas says one reason is some Latinos think answering census questions will reveal their illegal status.
Michelle Vargas: They think that the government’s gonna show them who has papers and who not has papers. So I’m gonna show that it’s easy, confidential, and very important.
And census data helps decide which households get Nielsen boxes to monitor TV ratings, says Telemundo President Don Brown.
DON BROWN: It’s a tremendous business issue because if you’re growing in Los Angeles — if Hispanics are growing in Los Angeles — there’ll be more meters in Hispanic neighborhoods, there’ll be higher ratings in Hispanic television.
Higher ratings mean more ad revenue for Telemundo. And that will catch the attention of people in the business community.
BROWN: They’re gonna say wow — look at this. There’s almost a trillion dollars of purchasing power. So it’s gonna be a real sea change in terms of the way that Hispanics or Latinos are perceived as economic powerhouses.
That’s a new plot twist.
In Washington, I’m Elizabeth Threlkeld for Marketplace.
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