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The 2020 Census is Underway

Publication date: 
Monday, October 16, 2017

Every ten years, the U.S. Constitution mandates a counting of every person living in the United States, regardless of their citizenship status. The next decennial census will be conducted in 2020. The counting of nearly 400 million persons is an endeavor that requires cooperation among federal, state, and local governments, community based organizations, and philanthropy. Census data informs political processes, such as the reappointment and redistricting of elected districts as well as the allocation of federal funding. In California for example, the distribution of $76 billion for federal programs depends on data derived from the Census. Therefore an inaccurate count will inhibit Americans, in particular, Californians to have equal access to resources as well as equal political representation.

Budget Issues

The Census Bureau is facing a funding shortage to complete a fair and accurate count. The proposed 2018 Census budget falls about $300 million short of the $1.8 billion that is required to ensure an accurate count. These shortfalls have already played out related to two “dress rehearsals,” a smaller scale preparation for the actual Census. These dress rehearsals aim to test the questions for the 2020 Census, new online response technologies, and electronic devices used during personal home visits. The Census has already canceled two of the three dress rehearsals in 2017.

In addition, communication campaigns that encourage people to participate as well as the opening and managing of Regional Census Centers that serve as hubs for regional census activities. These few factors, and many more, are all critically impacted by the budget. Consequently, the current federal budget has underfunded preparation for the 2020 Census.

The Census Bureau will need a steady increase of funding to support all the critical activities. Below is a chart from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) that compares the increase in funding for prior three Census and the budget shortfalls the Census Bureau faces this time around.

Philanthropy and the 2020 Census

Census data guides the allocation of $4 trillion in federal funds, including anti-poverty programs, foster care, Medicaid, and other social services. These funds often are leveraged by private philanthropy to amplify impact. The Counting for Dollars Project has prepared a report of 16 federal financial assistance programs that rely on Decennial Census- derived statistics for funding. For the complete list of federal grant programs impacted in California, please click here. In the 2010 Census, an estimated 1.5 million Californians went uncounted, which cost the state billions of federal dollars over the course of the decade. Resource gaps like this impact programs serving children, healthcare, education, veterans, and disadvantage communities.

In addition, funders rely on the Census data to inform long-term plans and grants by leading data-driven decisions about where to allocate their resources. For example, some funders employ Census data to identify community needs, demographic trends, and gaps in services.

In recognition of the impact that an inaccurate Census would have on California, Philanthropy California – an alliance of Northern California, San Diego, and Southern California Grantmakers – has embarked upon fully supporting a fair and accurate Census count. Staff will support this action by encouraging local governments to participate in and dedicate resources to the Census effort, including preparing for property records validation; and supporting budget requests to the State Legislature and Members of Congress to ensure timely, critical testing preparation for an accurate count.

Hard-to-Count Populations

Historically, hard-to-count (HTC) populations include children (between ages 0-4), urban and rural low-income households, limited English proficient, immigrant and mixed status families, and single parent households. Census experts have ranked California as the “hardest-to-count state” with 10 out of the 50 HTC counties in the nation.

Steven Romalewski, director of the City University of New York Mapping Service developed an interactive map that provides data on the HTC communities. The map allows you to search by Congressional or state district, to provide information on how much of the district lives in HTC neighborhoods. In addition, the map allows you to zoom into particular counties and neighborhoods and provide data on previous census “response scores”, information on populations with increased risk of being undercounted, and households with no computer or internet access.  For overview and instructions on how to use the map please click here.

Staff will continue to provide members with updates and resources on the Census 2020. If you have any questions, please contact Karla Mercado at [email protected] or (213) 680-8866 ext. 219.


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