What is next for the 2020 Census?
By Cassandra Drumond
San Francisco. The 2020 Census has finished the enumeration and data collection operation phase, but as the 2020 Census is far from over. Now comes the very important task of tabulating that data and coming out with reports. The Census has been cut short, and now has a deadline of December 31st, to review, process and tabulate and report on the raw data. The current Trump administration has refused to allow experts to determine the best schedule, causing chaos in the field. The Census has already faced setbacks due to COVID-19, California’s wildfires and hurricanes in Texas and Florida, all while they are attempting to collect responses.
Self-response rates already tend to be lower in communities of color throughout the US, and now that additional door knocking enumeration has ceased, these communities will be the most undercounted. Results of the under-count will have ramifications that last for years to come.
Arturo Vargas, CEO of NALEO Educational Fund, a non-profit, non-partisan organization whose mission is to promote the full participation of Latinos in democracy and political processes. Vargas explains, “The decennial Census is a foundation of democracy, having a fair and accurate count is important. There has never been an accurate count of Latinos in the Census. There have been efforts in every Census to undercount the Latino community, despite the fact that they already face barriers to be counted. In the 2000 Census, legislative efforts for scientists to make up for the undercount of Latinos was prohibited from going forward. In the 2010 Census there were calls for immigrants to boycott the Census entirely. Now in 2020, we have Political interference by the administration, wildfires in California, hurricanes in Texas and Florida, and of course the COVID-19 pandemic all affecting places with high numbers of Latino communities.” NALEO joined with other non-Latino organizations to try to ensure all 60 million Latinos in the US are counted. Response rates in mainly Latino communities are far below the 99 percent reported by Census. Vargas further explains, “The 99% completion rate is based on its address list, but we have no idea if those addresses included houses without a US postal mailing address. Every element of the Census is important, even now, the data processing phase. By not allowing them time, they are undermining a fair and accurate Census. The deadlines of delivery should be extended to allow sufficient time to ensure everyone is included.”
John Yang is the President of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, whose mission is to promote a fair and equitable for society for all, while advancing the rights of Asian-Americans in the US. Regarding the Census, Yang points out, “The Census sets a data quality standard that should be preserved. Now they must take the massive and complex task of taking raw data from 160 million housing units and submitting a report that gives insight about each of our communities. The current deadline is December 31st, 2020, but Census experts have pointed out it will be rushed, and they need until April to accurately report on the data. The mandate in the constitution says that all persons must be counted, the same is true for the apportionment count; it states all persons, not just citizens, must be counted.”
President and CEO of the National Urban League, Marc Morial, whose organization spearheaded litigation against ending the Census count early, and successfully made it through California state courts, to the 9th circuit federal court states, “It is very concerning to see interference for political gain from the Administration. Unfortunately, due to ending the Census early, many communities heavily populated by African Americans in cities like Detroit and across many southern states have not reached self-response rate of 68%. The 99% completion rate is a myth, and will have a devastating effect on the nation, and affect young black and brown children for years to come. If they are not counted, they will not be receiving federal funding. We will continue to fight in Congress and in court to ensure everyone is counted.”
On November 30th the supreme court will hear president Trump’s case on excluding undocumented immigrants from the apportionment process.
Kevin Allis, the leader of the National Congress of American-Indians and Alaskan Natives, the largest and oldest advocacy organization in the country founded in 1944, explains: “Native Americans are a community that is often ignored, only aware because of some costume or sports team. Many don’t know that Indian reservations still exist today. We have been fighting for funding and congressional representation for many years, although treaties were signed in the past, guaranteeing this in exchange for land. Yet, the count in Indian reservations is 25 percentage points below the national average. We are concerned and will not be quiet, and work with others to make sure this does not go unnoticed.”
John Thompson, the director of the US Census from August 2013 to June 2017, lead much of the planning for the 2020 Census. Thompson points out, “A lot of work has to be done to finish the 2020 Census. They needed more time since due to COVID-19 pandemic, many operations came to a halt. Many processes need to happen, such as removing duplicate responses, and most importantly to ensure the computer programs being used are accurate. We know, due to cutting the Census short, 21 working days of checking for computer errors have been eliminated, which is concerning. The Census needs to produce quality checks so stakeholders can assess quality of the data. The 99 percent statistic doesn’t tell much about these smaller communities, who will be affected by the Census count for years to come.”