Congress Seeks to Address Minority Undercount

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and 21 other Senators sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Raimondo and Census Director Robert Santos on March 31, 2022, sharing “serious concerns about the 2020 Census and its undercounting of Hispanic or Latino, Black, and Native American individuals” and asking what steps the Census Bureau may be undertaking to address them and keep them from happening again in the future. Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) and 44 other Representatives sent a similar letter on April 5, 2022.

The Senators noted that, “Earlier this month, the U.S. Census Bureau released its National Census Coverage Estimates for People in the United States by Demographic Characteristics, which is a 2020 Post-Enumeration Survey Estimation Report. This report revealed an undercount of Hispanic or Latino, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, and Some Other Race populations.1 The 2020 Census undercounted the Hispanic or Latino population by 4.99 percent, up from 1.54 percent in 2010 and more than three times the percentage of the previous census. Similarly, individuals who identify as “some other race” had an undercount three times that of the previous census. In the case of Black or African American individuals, the report revealed an undercount of 3.30 percent, nearly twice the undercount of the 2010 Census. Finally, American Indian or Alaska Natives in reservations had the greatest undercount of all at 5.64 percent.

The House members asked about:

  • “Plans for assessing the impact of the undercount on the full range of activities for which Census data are used, including federal funding formulas, civil rights enforcement, and other public and private sector use of Census data”;
  • “Efforts to examine and implement approaches to mitigate the impact of the undercount of Latino, Black, and AI/AN populations on the programs and activities for which Census data are used”;
  • “Plans to release state- and county-level information on undercounts of Latino, Black, Asian, and AI/AN populations, as well as national origin data for Asian Americans at all levels”;
  • “Any outreach to states and localities about the availability of existing and planned programs which permit states and localities to request a review that may result in the correction of Census 2020 counts”;
  • “Details of any further research, evaluation, and assessments to understand the specific factors which contributed to the undercount”; and
  • “Information about any Bureau plans to evaluate approaches to modernizing the census, and how it will ensure that it assesses the impact of such plans on achieving a fair and accurate count of historically undercounted communities.”