45 House Democrats call on Census Bureau to fix 2020 undercount
A group of House Democrats is calling on the Commerce Department and the Census Bureau to come forward with a plan to address undercounts in the 2020 census, which could misallocate billions of dollars in federal funding over the next decade.
In a letter led by Representatives Linda Sánchez (D-California) and Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona), lawmakers asked Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Census Bureau Director Robert Santos to assess exactly how the data mistakes will affect communities, and create plans to mitigate that damage.
“We rely on the census not only to provide an accurate picture of America, but also to allocate federal funds and give every citizen an equal voice in their elections,” Sánchez said.
The 2020 census was marred by the pandemic and unorthodox measures by the Trump administration that further complicated a difficult process.
At the top of the list was an attempt to include a citizenship question, a move that was rejected by the courts.
“The previous administration was determined to sabotage the 2020 census, and because of that, we saw unprecedented undercounts of Latino, Black, Native American and Alaska Native populations,” Gallego said.
In their letter, the lawmakers acknowledged the Bureau’s efforts to conduct a census under difficult circumstances, but raised concerns about how the undercount of ethnic and racial groups will affect federal programs over the next decade. .
“We commend the work of career Census Bureau staff in meeting these challenges and preserving the quality and integrity of census data, as well as the tireless efforts of all staff who have had to adapt Bureau operations with agility in an unpredictable and ever-changing public health environment,” they wrote.
“However, the net undercoverage revealed by the PSE is alarming, and the severely detrimental consequences could extend throughout this decade.”
In March, the Census Bureau’s Post-Enumeration Survey (PES), an official census quality check, showed that the total number of people in the United States was fairly accurate, but communities of color were undercounted. disproportionately.
Census results are used as a benchmark for allocating federal funding that goes to states and localities, as well as allocating seats in the House of Representatives and drawing local legislative districts.
While the census has historically struggled to reach communities of color, the EPS found that the undercount of black and Hispanic individuals increased in 2020, compared to the previous census.
In 2020, Hispanics were undervalued by 4.99%, down from 1.54% in 2010. Blacks were undervalued by 3.3%, nearly double the rate the previous year.
The communities most affected by the 2020 undercount were the Native American and Alaska Native populations, which were undercounted by 5.64%.
“The 2020 census undercount is concerning because the census helps determine the funding formula for more than 300 federal programs, which means undercounted communities will receive less than their fair share. This is especially problematic for Indian Country, which already faces a history of chronic underfunding from the federal government,” Gallego said.
“For decades, the federal government has failed to live up to its end of the bargain when it comes to federal fiduciary responsibility and as a result, many Indigenous communities lack access to quality health care and schools. , physical and broadband infrastructure, and even running water,” he added.
And the vast undercount of Hispanics in the United States, if left unaddressed, is almost certain to negatively affect the socioeconomic outcomes of chronically underserved communities.
“With Latinos being the second largest population group in our country, this undercount could have serious consequences for the prosperity of our community and our nation as a whole,” Sánchez said.
Lawmakers called Raimondo and Santos both to quantify the extent of the potential damage and to brief them on efforts to adjust federal spending plans to account for understatements.
“We believe that the results of the PES, along with changing trends in social, public health, technological and statistical analysis indicate that the Bureau should consider making fundamental changes to its traditional methods of enumerating the population of the country,” they wrote.
They also called on the Census Bureau to release all data on factors that contributed to the undercount.
Last month, 22 Democratic senators issued a similar appeal to Raimondo and Santos.
“With the troubling PES results, we urge the Census Bureau to take immediate action to improve the undercount for Latinos and other communities in 2020 and work to avoid future undercounts,” said said Arturo Vargas, CEO of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) Education Fund.