Texas Preparing for a Complete Count

Richard Perez, president and CEO of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, wrote recently that he is “among many in the business community who are worried the 2020 Census could be highly inaccurate,” especially because “Texas is among several states with a large number of ‘hard-to-count’ populations” – approximately a quarter of the state’s population.

Perez explained that “census results drive growth” for the business community. “They enable business owners to determine where to locate operations based on where their customers are, the likelihood they will be able to hire enough qualified workers and whether a community has the infrastructure to facilitate the delivery of goods or services.”

The San Antonio Chamber has partnered to form a Complete Count Committee. “If we succeed, this time next year you will see census messaging in everything from utility bill statements to social media feeds to church bulletins, and public service and paid advertising. On behalf of businesses and employers and everyone who benefits from a stronger community, I encourage every sector in our community to join us in this outreach to ensure our voices are heard and our residents are counted.”

– “Commentary: Counting on help for accurate census.” By Richard Perez. San Antonio Express News. October 25, 2019.

Evidence mounts regarding respondent confusion about counting young children in the Census

By William P. O’Hare, O’Hare Data and Demographic Services LLC

Demographers have been grappling for an explanation for why young children (age 0 to 4) have such a high net undercount in the U.S. Census. (O’Hare 2015; U.S. Census Bureau 2014:2019). In the 2010 Census, over 2 million young children were missed according to Census Bureau studies with a net undercount of roughly one million (U.S. Census Bureau 2016). The net undercount rate and omissions rate for young children are higher than any other age group.

Several recent studies are providing new answers for why young children are missed so often in the Census. These studies reveal that young children are often missed because a large share of respondents do not think they are supposed to include young children in their census questionnaire.  The evidence to support this idea has grown dramatically in the past few years.

In their qualitative study of 2010 Census respondents Schwede and Terry (2013) indicated many respondents do not believe the Census Bureau (or the federal government) wants children included in the Census count.

In a series of short surveys by the Census Bureau (Nichols et al. 2014a, 2014b, 2014c) respondents were asked, “What information do you think the Census typically collects every 10 years?” and were offered several choices. The percentage who thought the Census Bureau collects “Names of children living at your address” was 7 to 9 percentage points lower than the percentage who thought the Census Bureau collects, “Names of adults living at your address.” While this question asks about names rather than about information on individuals, it suggests that some people think the Census does not request information on children.

In the summer of 2018, the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) asked Hispanic respondents with young children if they thought those young children were supposed to be included in the Census. About 15 percent were unsure if young children were supposed to be included in the Census (Vargas 2018).  The high rates at which Hispanic respondents do not believe the Census Bureau wants young children included in the Census may help explain the high net undercount of young Hispanic children. The official data from the 2010 Census shows a net undercount of 7.5 percent of young Hispanic children.

In the summer of 2019, the Count All Kids Campaign commissioned a survey conducted by Lake Research Partners to find out more about why young children were missed in the Census. That survey of low-income parents with young children found that 18 percent of respondents were not sure they were supposed to include young children in the Census (Count All Kids 2019).

In the fall of 2019, Article I, a national civic campaign to promote the 2020 Census, commissioned a survey of several populations, including several Hard-to-Count groups, and asked about whether respondents thought young children were supposed to be included in the Census. In the general population, about a third of the population were unsure if “the census counts all children and/or babies.” For young adults (age 18-34) which is the age group most likely to be parents of young children, 40 percent were unsure if children or babies were supposed to be included in the census. Authors of this study conclude, “Misinformation and a lack of knowledge are standing in the way of everyone being counted in the 2020 census – especially when it comes to young children.”

These studies also show that African Americans and Hispanics are more likely than whites to believe the government does not want young children included in the Census. This helps explain why young children in those groups are more likely to be missed in the Census.

This information provides a good indication why young children are missed at such a high rate in the Census. Moreover, it suggests a strong public education campaign is required to get a more complete count of young children in the 2020 Census.  Families need to be told explicitly that young children are supposed to be included in the Census. A vague message about counting everyone is less likely to be effective.


200+Organizations Implore Congress to Fully Fund the 2020 Census

With 2020 Census operations already ramping up, more than 200 companies and organizations implored Congress to “provide full-year funding for the 2020 Census as soon as possible.” That funding would need to be at least at the Senate committee-passed level of $6.7 billion for Fiscal Year 2020, according to their letter to Congress, “whether as part of a package of final spending bills or in a new Continuing Resolution — whichever vehicle will be enacted first in the coming weeks.” The groups warned Congress that, “The window of opportunity to ensure a successful 2020 Census in all communities is closing.”

Organized by the Census Project, a broad-based coalition of business, civic, academic and state and local government groups who closely monitor 2020 Census preparations and care deeply about the resulting data, the letter was cosigned by groups as diverse as the American Heart Association, Insights Association, National Association of Realtors, National League of Cities, the Nielson company, Population Association of America, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and many varied state and local groups.

“The constitutionally mandated 2020 Census has already started,” the letter explained. “Twelve weeks after the most recent FY20 Continuing Resolution (CR) (P.L. 116-69) is due to expire on December 20, U.S. households will begin receiving their 2020 Census materials, by mail or hand-delivery. Major census operations have already begun and critical final steps — from recruiting and screening staff, to verifying addresses, to finalizing outreach and advertising plans — are finished or underway. We are grateful that the latest CR, funding the federal government through December 20, provides the Census Bureau with a temporary spending rate of $7.3 billion for the Periodic Censuses and Programs account, which includes a spending rate of at least $6.7 billion for the 2020 Census, for the duration of the CR.”

“However,” without “sufficient, on-time resources,” the Census Project stakeholder letter continued, “an accurate count is jeopardized.” The Census Bureau requires “the certainty of full-year funding for the 2020 Census now, so that it can commit necessary resources for final preparations, major operations, and expanded activities targeting hard-to-count communities in rural, suburban and urban areas, without concern that its funding may fall short of need.”

“An inaccurate census resulting from delayed or insufficient funding would” directly imperil the data needed “for essential decision-making across the U.S. for the next decade, in both the private and public sectors,” the Census Project stakeholder letter concluded. “Everything from apportioning representation, to business investment and siting decisions, to guiding the geographic distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funding every year, depends on an accurate 2020 Census.”

Sprinting to the 2020 Census

Politico recently discussed the recent report on the census-guided geographic distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funding:

…The Census Project, a coalition of organizations advocating for “an inclusive and accurate 2020 Census,” will unveil a report this morning highlighting the extent to which Census data guides federal funding for states and localities. Remember: “The upcoming Census survey is likely to be the most expensive and complicated in U.S. history, as POLITICO has reported — not to mention a target for online disinformation and interference — and inaccuracies could have far-reaching implications for the next decade.

—”The Census Project and our 800 national, state and local organizations and companies … frequently highlight the importance of census data to the fair distribution of federal funding,” Howard Fienberg, co-director of the Census Project, told MT. “This new report should be a screaming clarion to everyone to get out the count in 2020 … and to Congress to provide full FY20 appropriations for the 2020 Census as soon as possible.” He added that Census data guides major business decisions across every industry, including the tech sector, where “every company should be preparing their employees, partners, customers and users to respond to the 2020 Census next year and deliver a fair and accurate count.” Tech giants’ approach to safeguarding the 2020 Census remains a test case for how successfully they’ll protect the 2020 election, and we expect to see more scrutiny of those efforts between now and Census Day in April.

– “SPRINT TO THE 2020 CENSUS,” in Politico’s Morning Tech on November 18, 2019.

Americans Showing Higher Willingness to Be Counted in 2020 Census

The Census Project, in collaboration with the non-partisan national non-profit known as the “Committee to Protect Article 1 of the Constitution”, or “Article 1”, which promotes a fair, complete and accurate 2020 Census, is sharing details on Article 1’s new comprehensive national survey on public attitudes about the 2020 Census. The national survey has significant new findings on the eve of major census operations about public perceptions regarding the upcoming decennial count.

A new national survey of public attitudes about the 2020 U.S. Census shows Americans are growing more willing to stand up and be counted, confirming a positive trend from other surveys, although serious concerns about how the data will be used ‒ and if it will be secure ‒ confront the Census Bureau’s outreach campaign on the eve of major operations.

The online survey found that 58% of respondents said they “definitely will participate” in the 2020 Census. That means more than 4 in 10 are still not sure, which is comparable to this point in advance of recent decennial counts in 2000 and 2010.

The survey found deep levels of general mistrust of government driving the lack of participation among many that is undermining census participation. For example, 49% agreed with the statement “…The government will do whatever it wants regardless of the data.” This sentiment was over 50% among Hispanics, African Americans, Muslims and the youngest age group.

The findings show the toughest motivational challenge for the Census Bureau is with the youngest Americans. Among those age 18-24, only 29% said they will participate, and for those 25-35, it was 52%, well below the national average. Despite the cynicism, the 2020 Census had one of the highest reputation scores, with 78% of respondents expressing a favorable view, compared to only 50% favorable for the Federal Government.

The Census Bureau itself scored the highest of all groups measured as a “credible messenger” on the census, with a “very credible” score of 51%. The next highest rated messengers were non-profits working with the census (38% very credible), local first responders (38%) and local community organizations (35%). Among those rated the least credible were national entertainment and sports figures.

The study tested about a dozen messages intended to help motivate participation. Overall, emotional messaging that speaks to empowerment and creating a true picture of the country is very appealing ‒ nearly half of those surveyed saying each of those messages makes them much more likely to participate.

Article1’s survey showed a higher percentage of respondents were willing to participate in the 2020 Census than the Census Bureau’s own research in 2019 and virtually the same finding as Pew Research reported from September of this year. (CB 68% A1 83% Pew 84%)

The survey was conducted by Quadrant Research for Article 1, a non-profit coalition of Census experts who conducted the audience research to help craft a national unifying civic message to promote a full, complete and accurate count in 2020. During October, they conducted an online survey with 1,499 members of the general population, with an oversample of 300 English-Speaking Latinos, 300 Spanish-Speaking Latinos, 400 Muslim Americans, and 200 Asian Americans.

“While the results of this survey are indeed heartening, we know we still have a long way to go to ensure full Latino participation in the 2020 Census,” said Arturo Vargas, of Article 1, and Chief Executive Officer of NALEO Educational Fund.

“For the first time in our history, Latinos represent the second-largest population demographic in the country. Ensuring that every man, woman, and child is counted fairly and accurately is crucial to the future prosperity of our diverse community. Research like this, in addition to research being conducted internally by NALEO Educational Fund will help us address our challenges,” Vargas added.

Former Census Director Vince Barabba, also of Article 1, added that, “…although the actions by some have raised citizens’ concern over the privacy of their information, this study shows the history and track record of the Census Bureau in protecting and securing personal information has led to a strong willingness to participate in the 2020 Census.”

Dr. Ken Prewitt of Article 1, and the Census Director for the 2000 decennial put the findings in a historical context. “Every census since 1790, headwinds particular to the times notwithstanding, has refreshed a unique truth-telling tool of our democracy, designed to equip the people to take stock of how well their needs are being tended to by those it has trusted with the powers of government. And, so it will be in 2020.”

Memo from Article 1: “Recent polling on perceptions of the 2020 US Census” https://censusproject.files.wordpress.com/2019/11/article-1-census-findings-press-release-memo.pdf


Article 1 conducted 9 focus groups during August and September 2019 in Detroit, Michigan, San Antonio, Texas, and Los Angeles, California among individuals who said they were unlikely to answer the census to gain insights into perceptions about the Census among communities traditionally hard-to-count. Between October 3 and October 24, we conducted an online survey with 1,499 members of the general population, with oversample of 300 English-Speaking Latinos, 300 Spanish-Speaking Latinos, 400 Muslim Americans, and 200 Asian Americans. The margin of error for the general population is +/-2.5%, and the margin of error is higher for the different subgroups

Comparable Surveys

Pew Research Center

  • Conducted: September 16-29, 2019
  • Audience: N = 6,878

Census Barriers, Attitudes and Motivators Survey U.S. Census Bureau

  • Conducted: February – April 2018
  • Audience: N = 17,500 respondents, oversampled Asians, Blacks, Hispanics, and other small-sample races


New FY2020 CR Increases Census Spend

On November 19, House and Senate leaders agreed on a second FY2020 continuing resolution (CR). The CR, which would fund the federal government through December 20, provides the Census Bureau with the authority to assume an operational spending rate of $7.3 billion for the duration of the CR for the Periodic Censuses and Programs account. It also allows the Bureau to spend $90 million to implement the mobile Question Assistance Center initiative.

Bottom line: This action will help the Bureau keep 2020 Census plans on schedule for the duration of the CR. Interested stakeholders should consider urging Congress and the Administration to fully fund the 2020 Census in the next CR or to agree upon a final FY 2020 Commerce, Science, Justice appropriations bill that provides the 2020 Census with no less than $6.7 billion.

New Report Says $1.5 Trillion in Federal Funding to States and Localities Annually Depends Upon Good Census Count

As if the stakes for the 2020 Census were not already high, a new report released today shows that more than $1.5 trillion dollars a year in federal funding distributed to states and localities is derived from Census data. The news is the latest finding from the “Counting for Dollars 2020″ project led by Professor Andrew Reamer at George Washington University, who has been studying the issue since 2009.

The annual total of $1.5 trillion is a significant increase from the project’s last major compilation published in May of this year because the data has been updated from the FY2016 to the FY2017 federal budget, and the project team expanded their research from 55 large federal programs to a complete list of 316 federal programs that rely on census derived data.

According to the new report from the George Washington Institute of Public Policy at George Washington University, “Census-guided federal spending programs vary substantially in terms of size, geographic focus, and extent of reliance on and uses of census-derived data. The common element across these programs is that a state or area’s receipt of its fair share of federal funds depends on the accuracy of its census population count.”

Professor Reamer added, “While several studies by Congress and Census Bureau itself over the decades have done a fair job of describing this impact, the new report is the most comprehensive and robust compilation to date of federal programs that use census data to fairly distribute federal funding.”

The report was released today at an event hosted by the National League of Cities in Washington, D.C. with many representatives of census stakeholder groups who have been working for years on a fair, complete, and accurate 2020 count.

Ms. Beth Lynk, Director of Census Counts Campaign, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said the report’s findings drive home how important a quality count is next year, particularly for communities historically undercounted.

“Every community and every state has a critical choice to make: go all in on ensuring a fair and accurate Census or miss out on a pot of more than $1.5 trillion a year in federal funding to support your schools, roads, and health centers.”

Tom Beers, Executive Director, National Association for Business Economics (NABE), said, “…the Census is the backbone of the nation’s statistical system and the basis of everything that we know about the economy. Reliable Census data is essential to the ability of economists to inform business decisions at their companies.”

“Our Census Project stakeholders have always known that the fiscal health of our local communities was incredibly dependent upon a good census. This new data, thanks to Professor Reamer and his team, shows that total is  almost double what we previously understood. That gives a whole new meaning to an undercount and how local communities can lose out and be shortchanged if they don’t stand up to be counted,” said Census Project co-director Mary Jo Hoeksema.

Howard Fienberg of the Census Project said, “Think about it: $1.5 trillion a year over the next decade is $15 trillion in fairly-distributed funding for state and local communities. There can’t be any stronger motivation for every town, city, county, and state to fully mobilize for a quality 2020 count.”