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Sesame Street’s Count von Count joins publicity drive for US census

The maths-fixated Transylvanian is seen as crucial in ensuring children under five are counted.

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Sesame Street character Count von Count (Evan Agostini/AP)

Sesame Street character Count von Count (Evan Agostini/AP)

Sesame Street character Count von Count (Evan Agostini/AP)

Sesame Street’s Count von Count is being used in a charm offensive to ensure children under five are included in this year’s US census.

The Muppet best known as the Count is joining Elmo, Rosita and her mother, Rosa, in public service announcements filmed on the set of the long-running educational television show.

The spots encourage parents of young children to make sure they and their children are counted in the 2020 census.

The public service announcements in English and Spanish started airing on Monday.

Elmo (right) with Pharrell WIlliams and the Cookie Monster (Zach Hyman/AP)
Elmo (right) with Pharrell WIlliams and the Cookie Monster (Zach Hyman/AP)

The head count starts for most people this Thursday.

In the ad, the Count plays a census taker.

Casting was purposeful, Sesame Workshop officials said.

“Rosita is a bilingual Muppet. Elmo is popular and connected to young children and families, and the Count is so logical when it comes to being counted,” said Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop’s senior vice president of US Social Impact.

The Sesame Street characters are joining a growing group of celebrities using their influence to encourage people to be counted.

Morgan Freeman made a public service announcement for census outreach efforts in Mississippi.

Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made one for New York City.

Morgan Freeman
Morgan Freeman is also participating (Yui Mok/PA)

Sesame Workshop also is offering on its website fliers and information about the census that can be downloaded and distributed.

Demographers estimate that 4.6% of children under five, or one million children, weren’t counted in the 2010 census.

The under-counting was worst in minority communities, with under-counting for Hispanic children estimated at 7.5% and for black children at 6.3%, according to researchers.

The consequences of overlooking young children in a community can be harmful since the decennial census helps determine the distribution of 1.5 trillion US dollar in federal spending, including money for schools, Head Start and family nutrition programmes.

Researchers who have examined the under-count say young children are more likely to be living in multi-generational households, living in foster care, in more than one household because of parental custody arrangements, or living in multi-unit buildings like apartments that are difficult to access.

“Our youngest Americans need and deserve the resources that are vital to get an accurate count,” Representative Katherine Clark of Massachusetts said last week.

PA