The Impact of the 2020 Census

State of Play, a program on Black News Channel, spoke with the Census Project to learn more about the importance of the census.

Sharon Pratt noted that, “the business community is involved because there are data points… that have an impact on business decisions,” and asked for some examples that might matter to consumers.

Census Project Co-Director Howard Fienberg explained that, for the average consumer, census data “will determine where a business is going to set up its next business, or if they’re going to keep a business in a specific area,” whether in an urban core of a city or “some small town in a remote area of the country.” The information helps a business “determine if there is a need for a new OB/GYN in this area; what’s the baby boom looking like and current trends in marriage. It is determining whether or not you’re going to get a new Walmart in some rural area that’s been dying for a good opportunity. For urban areas, it is going to be the siting of a shopping center; is there a particular need for certain kinds of stores and is there a workforce that’s willing to work there and that brings the skillset to make it work, in addition to demand from consumers?”

Census data, from the perspective of a business and consumer, “comes down to identifying the unmet needs both within the workforce and the unmet needs and wants of consumers,” Fienberg commented.

Karen A. Tramantano asked, “if we didn’t get [the 2020 Census] right, and right now we’re functioning on 2010 data, are we stuck for the next 10 years?”

Fienberg responded that there is “a lot of work being done right now, both within the Census Bureau and among a variety of outside statistical expert organizations to try to evaluate the quality of that data, so we don’t really know where we are in terms of how good or how bad it might be.”

However, he warned that “any small discrepancies in accuracy can have a large impact over the course of the whole decade. To an individual household, that could be the difference in the place that you live getting the correct amount of funding for the VA, transportation, all manner of social welfare programs, education funding, healthcare funding… everything comes back to census data, so it does have an impact across the decade on the lives of ordinary people.”