Counting Disabled People in the 2020 Census

People with disabilities are a hard-to-count demographic group, according to the Census Bureau.

A recent brief from the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality (GCPI) and National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), “Why the Census Matters for People with Disabilities: A Guide to the 2020 Census Operations & Challenges,” explores the census operations relevant to the disabled community and discusses why the 2020 Census matters for people with disabilities.

Every self-response mode for the decennial should be fully accessible. “The bureau has conducted checks to ensure system compliance with Section 508 standards.” Guides will be available in braille, large print, and in 59 non-English languages, “including an American Sign Language video guide.” The Bureau’s call centers “will answer questions and accept responses in English and in 12 other languages” and “will utilize Telephone Device for the Deaf (TDD) technology.”

The physically and developmentally disabled are at risk of undercount “due to distinct yet often overlapping causes. When poorly designed and tested, inaccessible surveys restrict the participation of people with disabilities. Similarly, insufficient or ineffective outreach efforts may also mean that people with disabilities are not informed of the necessary resources available to support completing the survey. People with disabilities may also feel reluctant to participate in the census. Anecdotal evidence suggests that people with disabilities may be suspicious of the government or concerned that personal information will be used to determine their eligibility for government programs. Individuals with a mental health history, for example, may strongly mistrust federal authorities due to past experiences of involuntary treatment or the criminalization of behavior and circumstances associated with their mental health condition.” Disabled people may also be part of other hard to count demographic groups or live in hard to count areas.

The GCPI-NDRN brief offers a series of ways to “ensure a more accurate count of people with disabilities.”

CP disabled graphic

Understanding Omissions in the Decennial Census

A new report by William P. O’Hare for the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) provides data on omissions in the decennial census. “Understanding Who Was Missed in the 2010 Census” explains that researchers “use two main measures to determine who was missed in the 2010 Decennial Census: omissions and net undercounts. Omissions reflect the number of people who should have been counted in the census but were not, while net undercounts reflect the percent of people who were missed minus the percent who were double counted.”

O’Hare thus contends that, while such data is not widely used or easily available, omissions are a better measure of census accuracy. While both omissions and net undercount “reflect dimensions” of the accuracy of a decennial headcount, “they often tell different stories. Analysis shows a nationwide omissions rate of 5.3 percent compared to a net undercount rate of 0.01 percent.” There were almost 16 million omissions in the 2010 Census.

O’Hare suggested that understanding the demographic characteristics of people missed in the Census can help target 2020 Census outreach efforts. According to the PRB report, “Omissions rates vary among demographic groups in much the same pattern as seen in net undercount rates. Racial and Hispanic minorities have higher omissions rates than non-Hispanic whites. Renters (8.5 percent omissions rate) are more likely than homeowners (3.7 percent) to be omitted in the census. Among the states, omissions rates range from a low of 2.6 percent in Iowa to a high of 8.9 percent in Mississippi. Large cities tend to have higher omissions rates than the rest of the country.”

Read the full report.



Next Census Scientific Advisory Committee Meeting Set for September

The next Census Scientific Advisory Committee meeting will be on September 12-13, according to a Federal Register notice, to “address policy, research, and technical issues relating to a full range of Census Bureau programs and activities, including communications, decennial, demographic, economic, field operations, geographic, information technology, and statistics.” The agenda includes the 2020 Census, the integrated communications program, the partnership program, evaluation plans, and the demographic analysis program. The committee is also scheduled to discuss plans to disseminate the 2017 Economic Census and how to handle a variety of other census data products.

The meeting will be webcast.

Business Leaders Urge Making 2020 Census Funding a Priority in Final Fiscal Year

Seventy-four American business leaders urged Congressional appropriators to “prioritize funding” for the 2020 Census, a “fundamental civic responsibility.”

A group of American business leaders wrote to express their “support for sufficient funding for the 2020 Census.” They included members of the Business for the 2020 Census Task Force, and “executives and senior leaders from major companies as well as national, state and local business membership organizations.”

The group said they were “united” in their “conviction that a reliable 2020 Census is critical for American enterprise.”

Although “grateful for the increased support the 2020 Census received in Fiscal Year 2019,” they recognized “a substantial risk of an inaccurate count without proper funding in Fiscal Year 2020.” The letter, in line with the funding levels requested previously by the Census Project coalition, urged “$8.45 billion in Fiscal Year 2020, with at least $7.5 billion in direct funding for 2020 Census operations.” The requested levels as “consistent with historical trends showing that the amount of funding needed in the fiscal year in which the Census takes place is at least twice the funding level of the prior fiscal year.”

The importance of the 2020 Census to American business was a particular focus of a Joint Economic Committee hearing in May at which Howard Fienberg from the Census Project testified.

Senator Questions Big Tech About 2020 Census Misinformation Campaigns

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) recently sent letters to big tech companies urging them to take “responsible actions… to help ensure that the 2020 Census is full, fair and accurate.”

He referenced a “highly politicized atmosphere around the decennial census” which “leaves census takers especially vulnerable to misinformation.” Since “online platforms play a role in both the promotion and spread of misinformation and have a responsibility to put in place effective countermeasures,” Schatz urged the companies to treat the 2020 Census as “an extraordinary circumstance warranting temporary heightened actions.” Actions he recommended included “initiating immediate takedowns” of posts “identified as fraud, such as those purporting to be from the Census Bureau, that are phishing for users’ personal information,” and “identified as disinformation,” policies addressing “unintentional misinformation,” and notifying “users who have engaged” with such content in a “timely manner.”

Schatz’s letters also requested quarterly reports; notification about policies to Congress, the Census Bureau, and census stakeholders (including the Census Project); providing access to their platforms for “trusted partners”; and reports “after the 2020 Census end” with assessments about how effective all these actions were, any lessons learned, and any related data analyses and summaries.

Amendment Time: CJS Appropriations Legislation Faces Census-Related Amendments on House Floor

Appropriations legislation (H.R. 3055), including funding for the Census Bureau, will be considered on the floor of the House of Representatives starting as soon as today. Several of the amendments made in order by the House Rules Committee to Division A of the bill (CJS) may be of interest to Census Project stakeholders and may be offered during debate.

  • Amendment #149 from Rep. Steve King (R-IA) would strip section 534, a provision of the CJS bill that would prohibit questions on the 2020 Census that were not part of the 2018 End-to-End Census Test. The language in section 534 was intended to prohibit the citizenship question on the 2020 Census.
  • Amendment #86 from Reps. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) and Gil Cisneros (D-CA) would prohibit spending any funds on activities that would violate the Census Bureau’s confidentiality policies.
  • Amendment #71 by Reps. Jason Crow (D-CO) and Veronica Escobar (D-TX) would require the Census Bureau to follow existing law that prohibits sharing of data or information it collects with any department or agency, especially data gathered through data sharing agreements, and penalizes disclosure of such information.

The Census Project takes no position on these amendments.

Census Stakeholders Support Critical FY2020 Funding Ahead of House Floor Vote

As the U.S. House of Representatives moves through the annual Appropriation process, more than 125 business, civic, non-profit and local governments wrote to every Member of the House urging full funding for the imminent 2020 Census. Organized by the Census Project, a broad-based network of business, civic, and academic groups who closely monitor 2020 Census preparations, the letter was cosigned by groups as diverse as the American Pediatric Association, National League of Cities, the Nielson company, the Population Association of America and dozens of varied state and local groups.

The groups wrote; “…[t]he nation’s largest peacetime mobilization and very first responsibility under our Constitution requires substantial resources. An underfunded census would jeopardize the availability and validity of data used to make essential economic, political, and planning decisions in the nation’s private, public, and non-profit sectors over the next decade. To this end, we urge the House of Representatives to ensure a 2020 Census that is equally successful in all communities by supporting the proposed Census Bureau funding level in the FY 2020 CJS bill, and by working to enact a final bill by the start of the fiscal year.”

As the Census Bureau makes final preparations and begins rolling out massive operations this fall to start the decennial headcount, the national coalition of census experts and data consumers stressed the challenges ahead for a fair, complete and accurate count.

“…In eight months, the decennial census will be in full swing. By all accounts, the 2020 Census will be the largest, most difficult enumeration in our nation’s history. The U.S. population is increasingly diverse — geographically, culturally, and linguistically — with households becoming more complex, and a greater share of residents falling into “harder to reach” categories. Further complicating preparations and implementation, extreme natural disasters (e.g., hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and flooding) will require modified, more costly census methods to ensure an accurate enumeration in recovering communities. In addition, the focus on Internet response will be challenging for communities without reliable broadband service and households lacking internet access or familiarity,” their letter stated.

The Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations act, (H.R. 3055) allocates $8.45 billion for the Census Bureau, which includes $7.5 billion in dedicated funding for the 2020 Census. That closely reflects what stakeholders believe the Census Bureau needs to conduct a successful 2020 Census, enabling the agency to meet unique challenges facing the nation’s first “high-tech census.”

Stressing the critical timing of the House vote, the Census Project members emphasized, “…we urge you to support the robust funding level for the constitutionally required 2020 Census in the House Appropriations Committee bill. The Census Bureau has one chance to get the count right in all communities — there are no do-overs!”