Policymaker Challenges for the 2020 Census

By Phil Sparks

Over the past two months, stakeholders of the Census Project – including the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the International Council of Shopping Centers and the National Association of Counties – visited more than 40 congressional offices, warning them of the consequences of inadequate funding for the 2020 Census.

Our stakeholders reported back that many of the key offices they visited needed an in-depth updating on both the importance of the next decennial and how it is funded. And, many political challenges lie ahead.

For example, one knowledgeable congressional aide predicted to our stakeholders that Congress will simply “flat line” this year’s census budget at the same levels as last year, and kick the can down the road.

The Census Project believes this would be dangerous. The Census Bureau needs significant, additional funds in 2018 for the so-called End-to-End field test of new technologies designed to make the 2020 Census more efficient and less costly to the American taxpayer.

Something has got to give, and Census Project stakeholders are working hard with policymakers in Congress to understand the consequences of underfunding the next decennial census.

Government Statistics Vital

The conservative American Enterprise Institute and the liberal Brookings Institution have jointly written a new report arguing for the importance of government statistics, especially the American Community Survey and the decennial census. A bipartisan effort on behalf of good data!

Why Full Funding Matters for the 2020 Census Budget Request

 

Soon, the new Trump Administration will announce more details of its proposed annual federal budget. Information about funding of the 2020 Census could be included.

The Census Project has prepared a fact sheet on “Why Full Funding Matters.”

In a related development, FCW News published an article on the challenges facing the new Congress and the Trump Administration regarding funding of both the 2020 Census and the companion American Community Survey (ACS).

Saving the 2020 Census

This past week, the Washington Post published an editorial urging the Trump Administration to ensure a fair and accurate 2020 Census. “There is a reason the Founding Fathers saw fit to make the census a part of the Constitution… (it) is critical to a functional democracy,” said the Post.

Read the full editorial in the Washington Post

Grassroots Support for the Census

The federal budget for 2020 Census planning is presently flat-lined about $250 million below what the Census Bureau requested for this fiscal year. And the comprehensive American Community Survey (ACS) will be challenged by the new Congress and White House.

The past several weeks have shown dramatically that grassroots activities can get the attention of national policymakers. Census advocates can play a big role at the local level by engaging with their own members of Congress or senators in their districts or states.

The Census Project produced a Grassroots Toolkit which outlines the stakes in pressing for a fair and accurate decennial census and a comprehensive ACS. The Toolkit outlines local strategies that you can use at the community level. Join us!

Census Challenges in the News

Since the beginning of the year, Washington-based media has become more attuned to the challenges facing the U.S. Census Bureau and both its 2020 decennial and the American Community Survey. This is good news!

If the next decennial census doesn’t receive proper funding between now and Census Day 2020, the prospects for a huge undercount of the population dramatically increases.

A Washington Post article declares that underfunding means “the robustness of the 2020 Census is especially vulnerable.”

Meanwhile, a Science Magazine article is headlined “Scientists fear attack on federal statistics collection.”

Finally, a recent Education Week piece notes “education watchers are keeping close tabs on (funding for) the Census Bureau’s 2020 decennial census and for the American Community Survey.”

Let’s hope these articles are read by national policymakers!