November 2019 Census Project Update


On November 21, the President signed into law a second continuing resolution (CR) funding the federal government through December 20, 2019. Once again, the CR grants the Census Bureau the authority to spend money at a faster rate for the duration of the CR. However, unlike the first CR, the second CR provides the Census Bureau with an explicit 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. It also allows the Bureau to spend at least $90 million to implement a mobile Question Assistance Center program.

Stakeholders are pleased that the second CR stipulated a specific spending rate at a level approved by the Senate earlier this year. However, stakeholders continue to urge congressional leaders to include a direct full-year appropriation—rather than an apportioned appropriation — of no less than the Senate committee-reported amount of $6.7 billion for the 2020 Census ($7.3 billion for the Periodic Censuses and Programs account in the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill), in the next FY 2020 funding package that Congress passes—whether it be a third CR or final FY 2020 CJS appropriations bill. An accurate count is jeopardized without sufficient, on-time resources. The Census Bureau needs 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.

At the end of November, The Census Project circulated a sign-on letter to Congress pressing lawmakers to provide no less than $6.7 billion for the 2020 Census. A final version of the letter will be sent to Congress and posted on The Census Project in December.

2020 Census in the News

New “Counting for Dollars” report released

On November 18, The Census Project and National League of Cities sponsored a press conference to unveil the latest “Counting for Dollars” report prepared by Dr. Andrew Reamer, George Washington University. Since 2009, Dr. Reamer has been studying how census data inform the distribution of federal funding to the states and localities.

His latest report shows that census data guides the distribution of over $1.5 trillion dollars of annual federal funding to states and localities. The annual total of $1.5 trillion is a significant increase from the project’s last major compilation published in May 2019. The increase is attributable to the project team using updated Fiscal Year 2017 federal budget data and expanding the scope of programs from 55 large federal programs to a complete list of 316 federal programs that rely on census derived data.

Article I Releases National Survey Regarding Public Attitudes about 2020 Census

On November 26, Article 1, a non-profit coalition of census experts who support an accurate 2020 Census, unveiled findings from a new national survey of public attitudes about the 2020 Census. Their findings show Americans are growing more willing to stand up and be counted, confirming a positive trend from other surveys. The study also uncovered serious concerns Americans have about how census data will be used and secured.

In sum, the online survey found that 58% of respondents said they “definitely will participate” in the 2020 Census—meaning 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.

In a bit of good news, 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 nonprofits 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.

Counting Young Kids in the South for the 2020 Census

Young children had a higher net undercount in the 2010 Census than other age groups — 4.6 percent, a rate that has “tripled since 1980 while the net undercount rates for most other demographic groups have improved,” according to researcher Bill O’Hare of O’Hare Data and Demographic Services LLC. In his latest research brief, O’Hare suggests that the “biggest problem” in counting young children in the 2020 Census is likely to be in the South.

Study Shows Bipartisan Public Support for Census Bureau

Public support for the Census Bureau crosses the political aisles, according to data from the Pew Research Center: 69% of respondents had a favorable opinion of the Census Bureau, with only 16% holding an unfavorable opinion.

Census Bureau Updates

On November 7, the Census Bureau released a series of public service announcements to increase awareness and educate the public on the importance of the 2020 Census.

On November 18, the Census Bureau released the Mail Contact Strategies Viewer showing how the country will be asked to respond to the 2020 Census. Nearly every household will be invited to respond online, by phone or by mail to the census starting in mid-March 2020. Most areas—about three of every four households—will receive an invitation to respond online (or by phone), while the other households will receive a paper questionnaire along with an invitation to respond online.

On November 25, the Census Bureau responded to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Inspector General’s report “Critical 2020 Census Systems Failed to Meet Peak Recruiting Demands During Testing.

News You Can Use

Below are several articles posted on The Census Project home page in November. For a complete listing, go to:

Email Trail On Citizenship Question Is Longer Than Trump Officials Said
November 27, 2019

House Committee Sues Barr and Ross Over 2020 Census Documents
The New York Times
November 26, 2019

Census Bureau disputes IG claim that IT systems didn’t meet ‘peak recruiting demands’
Federal News Network
November 26, 2019

The census isn’t always right. Here’s what cities can do when they think it’s wrong
The Philadelphia Inquirer
November 26, 2019

Report: $1.5 trillion in federal funding to states at stake in census count
November 21, 2019

Census gets funding boost in stopgap bill
Roll Call
November 21, 2019

Nebraska Is 1st State To Share Driver’s License Records With Census Bureau
November 20, 2019

Anxiety grows in New Mexico over 2020 Census
Associated Press
November 13, 2019

Emails Show Trump Officials Consulted With GOP Strategist On Citizenship Question
November 12, 2019

Census Overhaul Seeks to Avoid Outing Individual Respondent Data
The Wall Street Journal
November 10, 2019

Facebook, other social media sites pressured to protect census
Roll Call
November 8, 2019