In ancient Rome, the census registered citizens and their property, for the purposes of taxation. The person in charge of collecting this information — and also monitoring public morality — was called the “censor,” which goes some way toward explaining why many people today cast a skeptical eye on the motives of the census takers.

But participating in the census today has vastly more benefits than drawbacks.

The U.S. Census counts the population, recording each citizen’s name, age and sex, as well as their race and ethnicity and whether or not they live at the address of the residence being counted.

While taking the census does not affect one’s tax rate or property value, the data is used to determine congressional, state and local voting districts. It is also used to assess racial fairness in relation to employment practices, health and education, and to help state and local agencies obtain funds for public services, administer housing programs and inform planning decisions. The 10 questions on the census form may seem vague, and might cause someone to say, “What’s the point?” But the individual details add up to an important big-picture snapshot of the country that will be used as the basis for innumerable big decisions over the next 10 years.

We know there are some who feel that the census is Big Brother, keeping an eye on the citizens, while others distrust who is collecting the data, how it will be used and where it will be stored. And there are some who just by virtue of the fact that the federal government is involved, distrust everything about it and refuse to take part.

But hiding from “the censor” is not the answer. Like casting a ballot for a candidate or an issue, participating in the census is our civic duty, itself a legacy of antiquity. The best way to make a difference, in all areas of life, is to participate, whether we are supporting something or opposing it.

Either way, it serves us best to make ourselves known.