Blog Post by Kathryn L.S. Pettit and Olivia Arena: “The 2020 Census is less than a year away, and it’s facing new challenges that could result in an inaccurate count. The proposed inclusion of a citizenship question, the lack of comprehensive and unified messaging, and the new internet-response option could worsen the undercount of vulnerable and marginalized communities and deprive these groups of critical resources.
The US Census Bureau aims to count every US resident. But some groups are more likely to be missed than others. Communities of color, immigrants, young children, renters, people experiencing homelessness, and people living in rural areas have long been undercounted in the census. Because the census count is used to apportion federal funding and draw legislative districts for political seats, an inaccurate count means that these populations receive less than their fair share of resources and representation.
Local governments and community-based organizations have begun forming Complete Count Committees, coalitions of trusted community voices established to encourage census responses, to achieve a more accurate count in 2020. Local organizations with data and technology skills—like civic tech groups, libraries, technology training organizations, and data intermediaries—can harness their expertise to help these coalitions achieve a complete count.
As the coordinator of the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP), we are learning about 2020 Census mobilization in communities across the country. We have found that data and technology groups are natural partners in this work; they understand what is at risk in 2020, are embedded in communities as trusted data providers, and can amplify the importance of the census.
Threats to a complete count
The proposed citizenship question, currently being challenged in court, would likely suppress the count of immigrants and households in immigrant communities in the US. Though federal law prohibits the Census Bureau from disclosing individual-level data, even to other agencies, people may still be skeptical about the confidentiality of the data or generally distrust the government. Acknowledging these fears is important for organizations partnering in outreach to vulnerable communities.
Another potential hurdle is that, for the first time, the Census Bureau will encourage people to complete their census forms online (though answering by mail or phone will still be options). Though a high tech census could be more cost-effective, the digital divide compounded by the underfunding of the Census Bureau that limited initial testing of new methods and outreach could worsen the undercount….(More)”.