CHC Letter Requesting Information from the Census Bureau

Recognizing that the Census Bureau “has emergency and disaster-related contingency plans for the decennial operation,” the Congressional Hispanic Caucus recently wrote to Dr. Steven Dillingham, director of the Census Bureau, that the COVID-19 crisis “requires a recalibration of the Bureau’s major operations including Update Leave, Update Enumerate, Mobile Questionnaire Assistance, Group Quarters Enumeration, and Non-Response Follow Up.” The caucus further commended the Census Bureau “for prioritizing the health and safety above all in its most recent decision to extend the suspension of in-field operations until at least April 15, 2020.”

However, the letter urged the Census Bureau to share updates with Members of Congress on a whole range of specific concerns relating to employee safety, hiring, training, operations in hard-to-count communities, community partners, the communications plan, the timeline for the census, and census funding.

On funding, the caucus letter specifically asked: “To date, has the Bureau started using its contingency funds? If so, where are these contingency funds being allocated? What portion, if any, has gone directly to equipment to ensure the health and safety of Census Bureau employees? As we continue to amplify the ability to self-respond, can or has the Bureau used contingency funding to set up a system that would allow operators to take calls over the internet from any remote locations in light of health concerns?”

Read the full April 3  Congressional Hispanic Caucus letter.

House Oversight Pings the Census Bureau for Response

With the Census Bureau postponing field operations because of the coronavirus pandemic, House Oversight Committee Democrat leaders reached out to Census Director Dillingham on Census Day to request responses to their previous inquiries and a request for a video briefing with members of the committee.

“This year’s Census comes at a perilous time for our nation, with a public health crisis upending daily life and creating unforeseen challenges to completing an accurate count of every person in the United States.”

Read the letter from Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Chair Jamie Raskin.

Predicting What You’ll See from 2020 Census Results

“While we do not have the specific details of this picture yet, it is possible to make some educated predictions about what the 2020 census will tell us.”

According to Dr. William Frey of the Brookings Institution, even though we’re still only in the self-response period of the 2020 headcount, we can draw upon “recent population estimates, surveys, and projections conducted by the Census Bureau and others” to predict what the 2020 Census could ultimately demonstrate, such as lower population growth rates than that to which we’ve become accustomed, faster growth in the west, Texas, and Florida than elsewhere, faster growth in the senior citizen demographic than younger ones, and increased racial/ethnic diversity.

None of this obviates the need to complete a full and accurate count of the American population this year, of course – think of it more as a potential sneak peak!

Read the full details of his demographic predictions.

Schatz-Smith letter to CJS re. FY21 Census Funding

Through April 6, Senators Schatz and Smith are circulating the below letter for signature in support of funding the Census Bureau in Fiscal Year 2021. 

Thank you for considering this opportunity to support the Census Bureau.

Dear Chairman Moran and Ranking Member Shaheen:

As you consider fiscal year (FY) 2021 appropriations, we write to respectfully request your support for $1.681 billion for the Census Bureau as a minimum funding level, with $1.392 billion for the Periodic Censuses and Programs account and $288.4 million for the Current Surveys and Programs account. 

The decennial census is a cornerstone of our constitutional system of government.  It is used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College and helps to guide the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funding for healthcare, education, roads and bridges, first responders, rural businesses, and other vital services.  Census data also allows the private sector to make sounds investments by identifying unsaturated or merging growth markets and develop business plans and loan applications.

As the 2020 Census concludes, the Census Bureau will need adequate resources to process decennial census data and submit it to the president for apportionment by December 31, 2020 and to the states for redistricting by April 2, 2021.  Among the other post-decennial census needs, the Census Bureau must also conduct its post-enumeration survey and close 2020 Census field operations.  To properly execute its duties, the Census Bureau must have adequate resources to support its ongoing operations, such as the decennial census data output and the American Communities Survey (ACS).  The Census Bureau will also be developing new data confidentiality tools and software and applying these items to its data products.

The Census Bureau’s FY 2021 funding request anticipates using $389 million in carryover funding to support conclusion of 2020 Census data compilation and publication and ongoing research and development operations.  Carryover funding will also be used to transition the Census Bureau to a new system for storing and cross-referencing data and reconfiguring and relocating three key Census Bureau offices. 

The Census Bureau’s FY 2021 request does not account for the use of its FY 2020 contingency funds, a significant portion of which will be used to ensure the Bureau adequately responds to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  We ask that the Committee provide flexibility to increase the Census Bureau’s discretionary appropriations in light of these unplanned expenditures.

Furthermore, of the amounts appropriated for the Census Bureau, we recommend restoring $9 million for the Survey of Income and Program Participation, which is used to estimate future costs and coverage of government programs.

We thank you for your continued support of the Census Bureau.


New Research Focused on the High Net Undercount of Young Black Children in the Census

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

March 23 to 29 has been selected as Black Census week by the NAACP and a different segment of the Black population is the focus for each day. March 23 focused on counting young Black children in the 2020 Census, and a webinar and paper released this week provide vital information on that topic.

A March 23 webinar sponsored by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law provided a lot of information about the undercount of young Black children and the efforts underway to try and address this problem. The webinar was moderated by Fred McBride from the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The first speaker in the webinar was Dr. William O’Hare, who recounted the evidence about the high net undercount of young Black children in the Census. Among other things, Dr. O’Hare noted that the net undercount for Black children age 0 to 4 in the 2010 Census was 6.3 percent which is about twice the rate of Non-Hispanic White young children. The next speaker was Cemeré James, head of the National Black Child Development Institute, who addressed the issue of why Census data is particularly important for Black children including the observation that many federal programs use census-related data to distribute $1.5 trillion in federal funds each year. She also covered many of the recommendations about Census outreach her organization is making to people in their network. The final speaker was Jasmine Jones with the Partnership for America’s Children and the Count All Kids National 2020 Census Complete Count Committee for young children. Her presentation focused on the many resources that are available, through the Count All Kids website, as well as other organizations, to promote a complete and accurate count of young children the 2020 Census. A substantial share of the presentations focused on what people and organizations could do to adapt to the new landscape given the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Also, Count All Kids shared a new paper on the Undercount of Young Black Children in the U.S. Census which was posted on the Count All Kids website. This paper focuses on several aspects of counting young Black children in the Census including the high net undercount in the 2010 Census, trends over time, geographic distribution of vulnerable young Black children, and a discussion of some of the reasons for the high net undercount of this population. The paper also includes a short section on the under-reporting of young Black children in major Census Bureau surveys such as the American Community Survey, the Current Population Survey, and the Survey of Income and Program Participation.

Among other things, the paper shows that almost one-quarter of low-income parents of young Black children are not sure young children are supposed to be included in the Census. This evidence may help explain why young Black children have such a high net undercount in the Census. This finding also indicates the need for an expansive, robust, and focused education and outreach campaign to correct this widespread misunderstanding about who to include in the Census.   

Also, recently released data from the Population Reference Bureau show young Black children are highly concentrated in census tracts where there is a very high risk of undercounting young children in the 2020 Census, based on the most recent data available. Data from that database, presented in Figure 1 below, show that almost half (48 percent) of young Black children residing in the 689 large counties included in the database live in census tracts with a very high risk of undercounting young children. This is a much higher percentage than any other race or Hispanic group.

Schatz Open Letter re. 2020 Census self-response

Senator Schatz is seeking signers on the letter below, which encourages the public to self-respond to the 2020 Census. The deadline for Senators is Friday, March 25. Please feel free to flag this letter for Senate offices and encourage them to consider signing.


The 2020 Census has begun.  It represents one of the greatest undertakings of our country: a constitutionally mandated count of everyone living in the United States of America.  However, in light of the public health and safety concerns surrounding the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we strongly encourage every household to respond to the census on their own rather than waiting for a census taker to visit.
The 2020 Census is quick, safe, and easy to complete.  You are able to respond online, by phone, or by mail, ensuring that you have multiple avenues to make sure you and your household are counted.  A complete and accurate census requires the fullest participation of all people living in the country.  All households will receive an invitation to participate, with a unique household code.  But even if you misplace the ID number for your household, you can go on-line at or call the toll-free telephone assistance lines to complete the form without that code.  Self-responding is the most accurate and cost-effective way to be counted.
The 2020 Census serves as the basis for apportioning the number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives among the states.  Census data also are used to draw congressional and state legislative district lines, thus ensuring an equal voice in our democratic system of government for every American.  In addition, the federal government allocates over $1.5 trillion annually in assistance to states, localities, families, nonprofits, and businesses based on census or census-derived data.
Community leaders rely on accurate and reliable data to understand community needs, locate vital services, allocate fiscal resources prudently, and properly plan for the future.  At the local level, government officials base infrastructure development and resource management decisions on census data.  Businesses invest in job-creating initiatives, such as building new production and sales facilities, when census data demonstrate that opportunities exist in a given community.  Nonprofit organizations use census data to target their limited resources to the most vulnerable communities with the greatest need.  And researchers use census data as the gold standard for many demographic, economic, and social sciences.
Census data are so integral to a well-functioning government and to equitable access to federal, state, and local benefits and services that public officials cannot adequately serve their communities if those data are not accurate and comprehensive.  Hard-to-count populations—including rural and remote communities, native communities, young children, renters, and the homeless—may face additional challenges this year due to COVID-19.  Equally important, the so-called “digital divide” means that certain population groups will have less opportunity to respond online, reducing response options for their households and increasing the risk that they will not be counted accurately.  An undercount of these people can impact everything from political representation to the receipt of federal funding.
While the Census Bureau has designed key operations to help reduce or eliminate these differential undercounts in 2020, the agency must focus its resources and attention on communities that may not be able to self-respond.  Therefore, if your household is able to respond on its own, we strongly encourage you to do so.  This will ensure that census taker visits focus on the communities that need the most outreach and assistance.  The Census Bureau has extended the self-response period to August 14, 2020, during which the public is strongly encouraged to respond online, by phone, or by mail.
The Census Bureau is committed to a complete and accurate decennial census, but it is everyone’s civic duty to do their part to ensure that we are all counted, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tracking Progress on the 2020 Census in “Real Time”

Census stakeholders are generally interested in knowing how well the 2020 Census is doing on self-response. With the self-response period launching just as the coronavirus and our reaction to it cascades across the United States, a high level of self-response has become even more important to a successfully accurate and complete decennial headcount.

As explained by consultant Terri-Ann Lowenthal in a fact sheet for the Funders Census Initiative, the rates of self-response reported by the Census Bureau don’t measure the accuracy of the 2020 Census, but they can be useful in keeping track of how the census is doing and what areas may need greater engagement.

“Self-response rates do not represent the percent of people who have responded,” the fact sheet stated, only “the percent of all residential housing units on the Census Bureau’s Master Address File (for a given geographic area) that responded to the census online, by phone, or using a paper questionnaire.”

The Bureau intends to report on self-response rates every day from March 20 through June for most of the country, including separate rates for web-based self-response.