By Tatyana Bellamy-Walker.
Immigrant communities and people of color are expected to be severely undercounted in the 2020 Census, officials say.
African-Americans are often referred to as the “hard-to-count” population because they have been historically undercounted for decades, according to a report by the Leadership Conference Education Fund. More than 10 years ago – researchers say the 2010 Census undercounted the African-American population by about 800,000.
Dr. John Flateau, a Public Administration and Political Science Professor at Medgar Evers College, who heads the campus’ U.S. Census Information Center told Caribbean American Weekly that an undercount will negatively affect disenfranchised communities of color. “If we’re under counted we’re not going to receive our fair share,” Flateau said. “That count is used by the government as part of a number of formulas to see how many resources and services will be allocated to local communities.”
The U.S. Census, which relies mostly on the self-reporting of household populations is critical in determining the number of representatives in U.S. government. Also, the census is important in the equitable distribution of public educational programs, health care, law enforcement and other public funds. “That count is used to define political power and representation throughout the nation,” Flateau said. “Our U.S. Constitution actually mandates that the census is used to decide how many members each state has in our national state legislature, the U.S. House of Representatives.”
Flateau continued, “In 2010, based on New York’s count we received 27 seats… there are already projections that if there is another undercount we will lose one or two more seats in the United States’ Congress.” He added that “As our numbers shrink our leverage on a national stage politically is shrinking as well.” The report by the Leadership Conference Education Fund adds that nearly 7 percent of young African-American children were
overlooked by the 2010 Census, approximately twice the rate for young non-Hispanic White children. A recent study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, states that children under the age of five are at risk of being undercounted in the 2020 Census.
“It will have a devastating impact,” Flateau said. “Not only are children undercounted but typically communities of color are undercounted, low-income persons are undercounted and immigrants undercounted. We have all that mixed within the African diaspora community.” Flateau added, “If they’re undercounted that means we will receive less dollars for things like head start programs, childcare and Title I, which is extra funding in our
elementary schools in poor areas and freelunch programs. If our numbers are lower than they should be, then we will be allocated less resources…all of these programs in our communities are going to shrink if we have another undercount.” Unlike prior years that used a writtenonly
form, for the first time the 2020 Census will largely be available online. The U.S. Census Bureau is urging people to fill out the survey through mobile, computer and other digital devices. Households that do not respond online will also receive a follow-up survey in the mail. In late March, the Trump administration announced that the 2020 Census will also ask a question about citizenship. Experts say, however, a question about citizenship might deter people from responding to the survey.
In a statement sent to Caribbean American Weekly, Steven Choi, the Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition denounced this initiative.“A citizenship question on the U.S. Census is toxic to New York’s four million immigrants, and all New Yorkers, who stand to lose millions of dollars in federal aid and political power in Congress,” Choi said.
Several organizations are now challenging this proposal in court. In late March, the NAACP filed a lawsuit in Maryland District Court suing the Trump administration for an attempt at failing to count minorities in the 2020 Census, stating that this will underfund communities of color. Five months later, the Trump administration attempted to dismiss the New York State’s Attorney General’s Office lawsuit against the addition of the citizenship
question. “Someone who is now ask to reveal their citizenship status…that question may have an extremely chilling effect in demotivating people to participate and share information with the government,” Flateau said.