Who Cares About The 2020 U.S. Census?-It’s three years away! Well, we all need to care about the Census because an inaccurate census will have implications that will affect every aspect of American life politically, socially and economically.
The man tasked with executing the 2020 Census, John Thompson, the Director of the United States Census Bureau resigned in May. A successor has not been named for the soon to be vacant July 1st post nor has other key positons within the Census Bureau been filled.
The U.S. Census is a federal responsibility that is driven by the Constitution and it counts every single person residing in the United States. It is mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution and happens every 10 years. The information collected paints a population portrait of the face of America- determines how America elects its officials, supports its infrastructure and how it takes care of its people. This current Administration is focused on the “un-browning of America” through its wall-building, travel bans, deportations, district rezoning and the defunding of critical social services for our country’s marginalized communities. The funding for these types of services are all based on the information collected by the U.S. Census.
The timing of Thompson’s departure is also critical because, spending and testing is ramped up two to three years before the actual Census. The funding normally covers field testing, running new methods, hiring census takers, publicity and marketing. This current administration and Congress don’t see this as a priority and may dramatically underfund the Census.
“In late April Congress approved only $1.47 billion for the Census Bureau in the 2017 fiscal year, about 10 percent below what the Obama administration had requested,” wrote the Washington Post’s Tara Bahrampour. “And experts say the White House’s proposed budget for 2018, $1.5 billion, falls far below what is needed.”
The 2010 Census represented the most massive participation ever witnessed in our country. Approximately 74 percent of the households returned their census forms by mail and the remaining households were counted by census workers walking neighborhoods throughout the United States.
It directly affects how more than 400 billion per year in federal and state funding is allocated to local, state and tribal governments, business, non-profits, foundations and planning decision such as emergency preparedness and disaster recovery and where those services are delivered and where to promote economic growth.
In order to be counted the Census has to know who you are and if you are not counted because of the fear associated with these unprecedented and unconstitutional policies –you will be invisible and you won’t exist. This means that undercounting in these marginalized communities will directly disenfranchise them and perpetuates the cycle of disempowerment.
Here are 20 reasons to care about the 2020 U.S. Census
- The Census is underfunded. It has historically been conducted via door to door polling and relying on paper forms and an army of census takers and the budget constraints may force the them to scale back and have the information collected online. While it reduces costs- it will more than likely increase the likelihood of undercounting marginalized, low income and minority groups.
- The advertising, marketing and outreach for the census takes time, field offices need to be opened and temporary workforce needs to be hired and trained, people – if there is not enough money for either that means people won’t get counted
- That’s more than $4 trillion over a 10-year period for things like new roads and schools, and services like job training centers.
- Proper testing is needed at least two- three years before hand to avoiding expensive mistakes like the failed 2010 handheld devices that cost millions.
- Redrawing of legislative borders
- It will affect the Electoral College maps with impacts the votes for the 2024 presidential election
- The census determines how the 435 members of the house are allocated and redistributed among the states based on the changeling population numbers
- 16 states will be affected and they will either gain or lose a 2020 congressional seat
- The stakes are the 2018 mid-terms elections are high because given that most elected state legislatures will have control over redrawing and redistricting of congressional and state legislative maps following the 2020 U.S. Census.
- The number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and is also used to distribute billions in federal funds to local communities. The Census determines how much funding cities and states review from the federal government. It determines the boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts for the 2022 mid-term elections
- What questions will and won’t be asked. The current Administration asked that the question of immigration status be asked but it won’t ask about people’s sexual orientation or gender identity, which was proposed for the first time this year
- Arab Americans of Middle Eastern and North African descent (MENA) has never been included (they had to select white or other) may now be included under race
- The census bureau is legally required to submit its planned subjects (gender, age, race, ethnicity, relationships and home ownership) for the survey 3 years before it’s conducted, which is 2017
- The actual questions must be submitted by march 31st, 2018
- All social programs in the US use the census numbers to allocate funding and resources from your schools to public services like firefighters, police, what schools, hospitals, etc are opened and shut down,
- The census helps the government enforce federal laws like the violence against women act and the fair housing act and how to allocate resources like housing support, food stamps, WIC- etc
- It helps ensure all groups get fair and adequate access to the rights, protection and services they need
- Social science researchers, health professionals, educators and others need the census data to meet the needs of their communities and the challenges they face.
- Census data shapes how states and regions are represented in congress and where the federal government puts infrastructure and public services
- Private business use the numbers to determine who their consumers are, where will they build/provide services- like what neighborhood gets a Walmart or Whole Foods
- Undercounting or miscounting would redirect costs and resources and would heavily impact marginalized and underrepresent groups