Tag Archives: California Complete Count

Governor Newsom: Get Counted by September 30

Better schools.

Safer roads.

Healthier neighborhoods.

All Californians can help their communities secure these resources and more by participating in the 2020 Census before September 30. It’s as simple as answering nine easy questions online or on the phone.

As we continue to address the double pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism, many of us are thinking about the world we want to live in, and how we can make it better and safer for the next generation. The Census gives us an opportunity to lay the groundwork for securing the funding that communities need to thrive.

An official count of the population, the Census is used by every level of government to decide funding for our children’s schools, childcare programs, and nutrition and health resources.

The answers you give today will affect us every day for the next ten years. Whether or not you take the Census will impact your 6-year-old until they are in high school.

The Census has helped us tell our American story since the first survey was conducted in 1790. It’s a count of everyone living in the United States, regardless of background, immigration status or citizenship. It paints a proud picture of who we are, informs political representation and determines funding for the foundation of our lives.

By taking the Census, you will help secure billions of dollars of funding for your community, tribal nation and state. You will ensure you and your neighbors are represented in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. Communities that have more people officially counted have greater representation in the legislature and the Congress, and they have more funding available to assist with the community needs based on this official count.

The Census gives us the chance to say, “we’re here, we matter and we know what our kids and communities deserve.”

We are proud that California is the most diverse state in the world’s most diverse democracy. Every community in our golden state is unique and each deserves to be counted. But not every community has been counted as they should.

Native Americans, immigrants, non-English speakers, diverse communities and children are among those most often missed by the count. An undercount would take away the power of our voices and count us out of the decisions that affect us. And it would put our future and funding at risk, resulting in less money for our hospitals, fire departments and schools. For every person left uncounted, California could lose $1,000 per person each year for the next ten years.

It’s our mission to include every community in the Census count, including ones who have previously been left out due to language and cultural barriers, fear or misinformation. In California, we are taking the Census as seriously as we take our children’s futures. We’ve made historic investments in ensuring every single person living in California – especially those in hard-to-count communities – is counted. That includes working with non-profit organizations and ethnic media partners to ensure we reach every Californian in the language they speak.

You may have already received instructions in the mail on how to fill out the Census form. If you didn’t, you can still fill out the form online at my2020census.gov or by phone at 844-330-2020. Assistance is available on the phone in several languages. If you received a paper form in the mail, you can fill it out and mail it back.

Make sure you count everyone in your household, including children, and do it before September 30.

As you’re filling out the Census, know that it is safe and confidential. The information collected cannot be shared or used against you in any way. Census data cannot be used for law enforcement purposes or shared with landlords. The Census Bureau will never ask for your Social Security Number, financial information or money. And the 2020 Census is prohibited from asking about immigration or citizenship status.

Right now, Census teams are going door-to-door to follow up with people who have not responded. They are following all public health guidelines, trained to wear a mask and ask the Census questions from outside your home. You can tell if the person is an official Census taker by their I.D. badge and Census Bureau-issued phone.

Remember that by answering these nine easy questions and ensuring a complete count, you are creating a brighter future for your community.

As parents, there is nothing we would not do for our children. This year, add “taking the Census before September 30” to that list.

Visit the Census website to learn more: https://californiacensus.org/

CA Census Hits Hard-to Count-Benchmark But Wealthy Communities Lag Behind

California’s Census self-response rate is a nationwide leader, but many residents in the state’s wealthy enclaves have yet to respond.

9.7 million households in the state have already responded — more than 64 percent — but more than two million households have not participated in the nine-question online survey at census2020.gov. A mail-in form is also available.

California’s self-response rate is higher than the national average – slightly more than 64 percent versus

62.8 percent throughout the country as of July 30, according to data from California Complete Count-Census 2020. California also has the highest average self-response rate in census tracts where a large percentage of residents are foreign born.

As part of its original strategy, California Complete Count focused its outreach on 3.5 to 4.1 million  households considered “hardest-to-count” because they lack access to broadband Internet and therefore cannot complete the online form. Hard-to-count households may also speak English as a second language and live at or near the poverty line.

So far, 2 million hard-to-count households have responded, which meets the state’s initial target and puts it ahead of 10 other states with similarly high racial and ethnic diversity. California has the largest number of hard to count households in the country, according to California Complete Count.

Surprisingly, however, wealthy cities in the state — which in past censuses have been easy to count — have had a lower response rate in the 2020 census. In posh Malibu, for example, self-response rates dipped to 36 percent. In San Francisco, wealthy neighborhoods such as Cow Hollow, the Marina, Pacific Heights, and the Presidio have self-response rates of 53 percent, a startling drop from the 2010 census, when these neighborhoods exceeded 70 percent.

Ditas Katague, longtime director of California Complete Count-Census 2020, the state’s initiative to ensure an accurate census count, said during an Aug. 3 press briefing that there are only a few days left to respond to avoid enumerators coming knocking at the door. All residents in the country are required to respond to the Census regardless of immigration status.

“This is a pivotal time in our nation’s history. Face to face contact is limited,” she said, also noting the uncertainty of door-to-door field work.

U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham announced Aug. 3 that he was cutting short the time for field data collection. Earlier, enumerators were scheduled to continue knocking on doors until Oct. 31. But Dillingham’s memo said field operations would end on Sept. 30 to ensure that the Bureau would meet its statutory deadline of Dec. 31 for delivering census results to the White House.

The shortened timeline for data collection immediately evoked response from critics. House Majority leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, issued a series of tweets Aug. 4, stating: “Last night’s announcement that the 2020 Census will be cut short before its work is done is yet another example of this Administration’s blatant assault on our Constitution and our democracy.”

“Trump has been trying to undermine the Census since before it began. The House will continue to investigate these abuses. With only 6 in 10 people counted so far, I urge the Commerce Secretary & Census Director to insist on conducting the full count as mandated by our Constitution,” tweeted Hoyer.

Katague said she was deeply concerned that field work might be cut short. “A successful count involves enough enumerators and enough timing.”

“We risk a historic under-count,” she said.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

Ditas Katague Fights to Get All Communities Counted

When Ditas Katague was growing up in Kansas City, Missouri, in the 1960s, only 150,000 Filipinos lived in the United States.

About five decades later, when she began leading the U.S. Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee on Race, Ethnicities and Other Populations, the Filipino population in the country had risen to nearly 2 million.

Katague now is heading up her third decennial census, and nearly 4 million Filipinos live in America. Of those, more than 1.6 million call California home.

This rapidly growing ethnic group overall has significantly higher incomes compared to the country’s total foreign and native-born populations, but the Filipino voter turnout is only 46%.   It is in closing gaps like this that Katague found her calling early on in census work.

“It has been my desire to be an agent of change and guide census efforts,” said Katague, now director of the California Complete Count Census 2020 Office. “I am a proud Filipino American.”

Rites of passage to census

Katague’s father worked in the 1960s in Kansas City. When she was 10 years old, her family moved to a new subdivision in Modesto, California, where she had an experience that forever changed her perspective on the decennial count.

The father of her best friend in the neighborhood had a stroke and was taken from their house in an ambulance. But because the hospital was far from where they lived, the stroke damaged him seriously.

That terrible memory has always reminded her that if the federal government had allocated more resources to their neighborhood, there might have been a hospital nearby that could have given her friend’s father immediate care.

“I always wonder, if that ER was even 10 minutes closer, would he have suffered less damage? Would he have been able to walk on his own?” Katague said. “If we are not counted, those facilities or things that we need would be a lot farther away.”

Census participation in California

In an effort to achieve a complete count in California, and despite the difficulties of achieving that during the coronavirus pandemic, Katague continues to encourage communities across the state to participate in the census.

As of June 28, she said, California’s count rate was 68% — more than 9 million households have submitted their census questionnaires by phone, online or mail. The state’s rate is higher than the 61.8% national average.

San Mateo, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Marin, Orange and Ventura counties lead California’s census responses.

“It is a huge achievement, considering what we are facing right now, but we still have a lot further to go,” Katague said.

Those most at-risk of going uncounted in the census include minorities, immigrants, residents in hard-to-reach or remote areas, renters and children ages 5 and under.

“[Census] brings the fair share of our representation back to our communities, and that’s why it is really important,” Katague said. “But most importantly, as Filipino Americans, it shows how we are growing and to have the data [that does] not just lump us [all] in with Asian American and Pacific Islanders.”

Challenges in the Filipino community

Anecdotal evidence suggests that Filipinos who don’t participate in the census are mostly undocumented immigrants and those who are too busy with work, especially those with multiple jobs.

“The census is safe and confidential, but I get the fear,” Katague said. “Many of our hardest-to-count populations … our TNTs (undocumented) within the Filipino community are definitely like, ‘I’m not going to answer that.’ But we need the data to understand the impact that Filipino Americans are having on a lot of different things … especially during this time of COVID-19.”

The deadline to submit the questionnaire to the U.S. Census Bureau has been extended to Oct. 31 because of the pandemic.

Katague acknowledges that many households in the Filipino community are composed of multigenerational families, which poses challenges to count.

“We have those living with lola (grandmother) or lolo (grandfather) and staying with them, or tita (aunt) is staying over, and then they’ll often see an undercount because they won’t report everyone,” Katague said. “Maybe tita’s not supposed to be living there at that time, or maybe they think they’ll get their own forms. But since the housing crisis, we have seen houses that are doubling up.”

Is Filipino Asian or Pacific Islander?

Katague is American, born and bred. She attended American public schools, and established her career mostly in American public service.

By identifying herself as Filipino, her ethnicity offers a thread, a more significant meaning for her commitment that every Filipino living in California and the United States —  young and old, documented and undocumented, biracial and multiracial — gets counted.

Katague talked about how being a Filipino American has shaped her personal and political identity, and she mused aloud about questions her own daughter grapples with.

The teenager is multiethnic — half Filipino, a quarter Italian and a quarter Irish.

According to the Census Bureau, an individual’s response to the race question is based upon self-identification. The Bureau does not tell individuals which boxes to mark or what heritage to write in. Instead, the questionnaire gives the respondent the option to self-identify with more than one race or ethnicity.

“My daughter is also trying to find her identity,” Katague said. “She’d say, ‘Mom, we are the Latinos of Asia.’ But the census gives her the opportunity to choose her identity — the way anybody wants to choose it. Now, she’d say, ‘Mom, I’d only fill out Filipino,’ because that’s what I identify with and that’s what resonates with her.”

Invisible, Undercounted & Disenfranchised

For generations, millions of Americans whose roots lie in the Middle East and North Africa — MENA — have essentially become invisible people because the Census Bureau has denied requests for their own racial category.

“Legally, in America, I’m classified as white,” says Dr. Hamoud Salhi, associate dean of the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences, CSU-Dominguez Hills. “I was born in Algeria, which is part of Africa, so technically I could declare myself as African American, but I can’t.”

Palestinian-American Loubna Qutami, a President’s postdoctoral fellow at U.C. Berkeley specializing in ethnic studies, says that since MENA doesn’t have a classification of its own, it legally falls under the white category.

MENA populations have their own specific needs for health care, education, language assistance and civil rights protection, but they have no way to advocate for themselves because numerically they are folded into the category of white Americans.

To change this, Dr. Salhi, Dr. Qutami and other MENA leaders have been mobilizing their communities to participate in the 2020 census, encouraging people to write in their ethnicity. They spoke 10 other experts and activists on a May 13 two-hour video conference organized by Ethnic Media Services on the historical, linguistic and political challenges  that make the MENA population among the hardest to count in California.

Geographically, MENA populations live on three continents — from the border of Afghanistan south to the tip of Africa — and in 22 nations in the Middle East alone, with numerous subgroups such as Kurds, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Armenians.

“North Africa is actually a concept that the French gave to Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, which they colonized,” says Dr. Salhi. The neighboring countries of Egypt and Libya were added later.

Because of their shared Arabic language and Islamic religion, people in the United States from North Africa were lumped together with people of the Middle East to form the MENA acronym.

For decades, the Census Bureau has turned down requests to add MENA to the official category of races, currently white, black or African American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian American and Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander.

The result, says Dr. Qutami, artificially props up the white population count, which has been in decline, while suppressing the count of MENA residents who don’t identify themselves as white. According to the 2015 Census Bureau’s “National Content Test – Race and Ethnicity Report, “As expected, the percent reporting as White is significantly lower with the inclusion of a distinct MENA category when compared to treatments with no MENA category.”

California mirrors the challenge to the MENA population of geographic size and diversity, says Emilio Vaca, deputy director of the state’s Complete Count Committee, which directs census outreach. The Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey reported that  11 million of California’s 40 million residents, about 27%, are immigrants.

“That’s equivalent to the entire state of Georgia,” Vaca emphasized. At home, most of those immigrants speak one or more of 200 languages other than English.

Homarya Yusufi, from the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans, broke down the face of diversity in just one San Diego neighborhood that her organization serves: “We have 45 different national origins — from MENA, Asia and Latin America — who speak more than 100 languages in the 6.5-mile City Heights district, a distinct community of refugees and immigrants.” Educating and motivating these groups to participate in the census is a way to engage them in the civic life of the wider city.

Historical necessity — what specific immigrant groups have done to survive — also plays a role in the MENA undercount. Up until the mid-20th century, only whites could own property, and only “free white immigrants” could become American citizens.

To survive and advance, Middle Eastern immigrants successfully petitioned the federal courts to be allowed to identify themselves as white in 1920. North African immigrants, as members of the MENA population, got pulled along and found themselves legally classified as white as well.

The discriminatory policy for citizenship and property ownership favoring whites only ended with passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952.  But even then, MENA communities found it difficult to raise funds and mobilize calls for action to address their needs. They didn’t know where their fellow compatriots were located and couldn’t raise official numbers to request funds and resources.

“We were helpless. In many instances, we had to generate our own data,” says Dr. Qutami.

Over the years, the Census Bureau has never clearly answered why they’ve refused to include the MENA classification, despite concluding, in a 2017 report, that “the inclusion of a MENA category helps MENA Respondents to more accurately report their MENA identities.”

The bureau again turned down the 2018 request for the 2020 census. Karen Battle, chief of the bureau’s population division, announced in a public meeting on census preparations that “We do feel that more research and testing is needed.”

MENA advocates believe filling out the 2020 census is the only way to avoid another undercount. Without doing this, Yusufi says, “our communities will continue to be invisible and left in the margins because data really matters.”

Gaining services customized to MENA’s needs is only part of what’s at stake. So, too, argues Yusufi, is building power. MENA populations then can elect individuals “who reflect the needs of our communities and hold lawmakers accountable” when they stigmatize MENA communities.

Kathay Feng of the nonpartisan watchdog Common Cause emphasized that participation in the census is the first step to representation. In America, resources and rights are accorded by representation based on the number of residents at all levels, from the state down to the municipality, in proportion to the total population.

“Everyone is counted, regardless of immigration status or whether they are registered voters or not,” Feng said, “because all residents pay taxes in one way or another, and most immigrants would eventually become citizens in the long run.”

Every 10 years, immediately after the decennial census submits population data, electoral districts are redrawn. In California, which has been at the forefront of redistricting reforms, the old practice of allowing legislators to draw district lines based on which populations are sure to vote them back into office — known as gerrymandering — was replaced in 2009 by independently selected commissioners. Nine other states have followed California’s lead.

But, Feng emphasized, to be effective and to ensure their voices are heard, residents have to be  engaged at the local level.  And this year, there is a danger that anti-immigrant forces will restrict the residents who count in redistricting to voters only.

“In the city of El Cajon, San Diego, we faced a lot of discrimination, especially when the Syrian refugees arrived. Our children got bullied in school but the schools didn’t want to adopt any bullying policy because we don’t have representation,” said Dilkhwaz Ahmed, executive director of License to Freedom. “Representation is very important to us as a Kurdish community, as refugees, and as immigrants.”

Emilio Vaca is optimistic that California can meet the undercount challenge: “As of May 11, California has a self-response rate of 59.6%, which is above the national average of 58%.” This is all the more impressive, Vaca noted, given how the pandemic has affected outreach.

Many of the speakers on the call testified to the ongoing efforts to shift to virtual outreach and “drive by” caravans and taking the census to where the people are.

“We had a food bank event for the Middle Eastern and Muslim community in south Sacramento that attracted more than 2,000 families who came by cars, and we actually engaged with them about the census in every single car,” said Basim Elkarra, executive director of CAIR in Sacramento. “Many were recent refugees.”

The 2020 census form doesn’t include the MENA racial category, but Question 9 allows respondents to write in “MENA” and their specific ethnicities such as Lebanese, Palestinian, Algerian or Kurd.

Being visible in the 2020 census, the speakers agreed, will lay the foundation for the next few MENA generations to build on what this generation has started.

 


Image: Siti Aisyah, Pixabay