Tag Archives: Census

Doubts About the 2020 Census: How Will the First Online Census Work?

Question: Do you mean that this Census will be digital and we will have to put our information online? How will this work? What will happen to people who do not have access to a phone or computer?

The census will be online, but not exclusively. As we do with almost any other transaction today, the 2020 Census will be conducted primarily online. This will be the first time this happens in the survey´s 117 years of existence. 

The way things used to be: Historically, the Census has been conducted through printed forms that are sent to homes. If the form was not returned, a Census enumerator would then be sent to conduct the survey in person. 

Choosing how to respond: The 2020 Census will be conducted on a variety of platforms. This time, it will be different, explained Patricia Ramos, a Census Bureau spokeswoman. “Responding to the 2020 Census will be easy for everyone. For the first time, you can choose to respond online and you can also choose to respond by phone, mail, or to a Census worker who arrives at your home.

You will get an invitation to go online: Esperanza Guevara, director of Census programs for the Human Immigrant Rights Coalition (CHIRLA) explained that beginning March 12, the Census Bureau will send a letter to 80% of all households inviting them to fill out about ten questions online using a special identifier number. Another 20% will get similar letters plus a paper questionnaire.

Not everyone has the Internet. But the first online census does not forget that there are sectors of the population that simply do not have easy access to a computer or an Internet connection.  According to a report by the Public Policy Institute of California, 90% of households in California use the Internet and 73% have a cell phone. However, there are populations that are less connected: in low-income communities, rural areas and Latinos or African Americans, only 54% to 67% are connected to the Internet.

You will have more than one opportunity to participate. “The invitation will also include information about the option of doing it on paper or by phone,” said Guevara. “Then they will send four more reminders until the end of April.” All households that haven’t self-responded by mid-April will receive a paper form in the 4th mailing. The fifth mailing – a “it’s not too late” postcard – will be sent to those who haven’t responded.  If there’s no response from a household after that, an enumerator will come to the door.  

There will be  computers in the community: Guevara indicated that his organization, CHIRLA, is one of the “trusted” messengers who is working to answer community questions and to inform them of the importance of filling out the Census. CHIRLA will provide computers in its offices and knock on doors to remind the community that it is important to participate. It is anticipated that Public Libraries with computers will also become a favorite place for those who do not have easy access to the Internet. 

It takes little time to respond and it means a lot: “We want to remind you that the Census takes little time to complete, but it means a lot to our communities,” said the activist. “Their results help bring resources to their homes and ensure that our values are represented in government.”

Question: How can I be sure that my information will be kept confidential or that it will not be used against me by the government? 

According to a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, 63% of Californians are concerned about the confidentiality of the data they give to the government in the Census. This sentiment is accentuated in communities such as Latinos (74%) and African Americans (74%). 

There are two levels of mistrust. 

The first is mistrust of the platform or whether delivering data “online” to the government is safe at a time when hacking into private financial companies is often in the news. 

The second is mistrust of the government and how it will make use of citizen data. 

As for the first question, the Census Bureau says it has worked at various levels to protect the information it will collect online or through its door-to-door enumerators who will also carry phones with a special application that will transmit data directly to headquarters.

The data will be “encrypted” to protect its transmission. Staff must use double authentication to verify users and the government will use the Einstein 3A system to monitor networks and identify malicious activity around databases. 

Second, the confidentiality of the personal information is guaranteed by law, according to Census spokespeople. 

“The law is clear: no personal information can be shared,” explained in an email Patricia Ramos, regional Census spokeswoman. 

“Under Title 13 of the U.S. Code, the Census Bureau cannot disclose any identifiable information about individuals, households or businesses, even to law enforcement agencies. All Census Bureau employees take an oath to protect your information. We have sworn for life to protect the confidentiality of your data. We could go to jail or be fined up to $250,000 if we violate that oath,” she added. 

Guevara, of CHIRLA added that the law is on the side of confidentiality. And for those who do not trust this government, the activist asked to trust the vigilance of the legal community and community groups. 

“We are committed to serving as guardians of what happens, we are not afraid to take on the fight necessary to ensure that this government complies with the law,” she said.

Information was gathered by https://ethnicmediaservices.org/ through social media. If you have a question or doubt about the Census, please write to [email protected] and we will consult the experts to get the answers.

Fears of Undercounting People of Color Rise Before 2020 Census

By Michael J. Fitzgerald, Richmond Pulse/Ethnic Media Services

Combatting a predicted major undercounting of people of color in the 2020 U.S. Census was the focus of a national roundtable discussion, featuring key representatives of civil rights and voting rights organizations, earlier this month.

In sometimes heated presentations, representatives of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), the Urban Institute, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ) and the New York Immigration Coalition hammered home how important a full count will be.

“We are not going to stand by and be undercounted,” said Jeri Green of the Urban Institute, which on June 4 released a study asserting that the upcoming census is likely to be the least accurate since 1990, or possibly worse, and that among the people likely to be overlooked will be 1.7 million kids younger than age 5. It expects California to have the highest percentage of people not counted, followed by Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, Georgia, New York and Florida.

Part of the concern expressed repeatedly in the national teleconference was the possibility that the 2020 Census will include a question inquiring about a person’s citizenship status. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to soon issue its decision on whether to allow the question. Three federal courts have ruled against allowing the change to census procedures, but it is widely feared that the Supreme Court may overturn those rulings.

“Regardless of the outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision, we will not idly stand by as others attempt to undermine the progress of the Latino community and suppress the count of the nation’s second largest population group,” NALEO CEO Arturo Vargas said. “We will continue to fight for a just Census 2020 and a full and accurate count of Latinos and immigrants.”

“But even if it doesn’t get put on the census, just the discussion of it has already done harm,” John Yang of the AAAJ said.

 The harm, Yang explained, is that people who are already skittish about government in general  or their citizenship status  are less likely to fill out any census form, thinking it might put them at risk.

 Steven Choi of the New York Immigration Coalition said that the most effective strategy will be to have as much person-to-person contact with individuals to convince them to fill out the census because of its importance in determining federal funds and national representation.

 “Clearly the Trump administration effort (wanting the citizenship question included on census forms) strikes hardest at immigrant-rich states,” he said.

 In New York, the state Congressional delegation is bracing for a likely loss of two seats.

 “And in terms of money and power, for every person lost  or not counted  it’s estimated to cost the state about $3,000 per person,” Choi said.

 That’s money lost to all manner of public spending.

 This year’s census will also be the first to extensively use the internet and online data gathering, in favor of deploying the traditional door-to-door census takers.  The Census Bureau is planning to send out an electronic request to 80% of U.S. households, expecting a response rate of about 45%. Non-responsive households will eventually be mailed a paper census form to fill out, either in English or Spanish. Online questionnaires will have more languages to choose from

 Eventually, if no response is forthcoming, a Census Bureau field worker will be dispatched to contact the household in person or via telephone.

 The consensus among the teleconference panelists was that if the citizenship question is included in the census, people should answer it and not leave it blank.

 “You really must answer,” Choi said. “There are legal ramifications.”

 Panel moderator Beth Lynk, census counts campaign director for The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said her organization is worried about an undercount of as high as 4 million minorities with a possible concomitant over count of Caucasians.

“Everyone relies on census data,” she said.

 Sulma Arias of FIRM said her organization is already holding community meetings, engaging people of color online, and getting the word out about how important this census will be.

 “This is an attack on our rights to fair representation,” she said. “We refuse to be erased.”

Save 2020 Census

By Mark Hedin, Ethnic Media Services. 

The best response to White House efforts to disenfranchise ethnic communities is for them to stand up and be counted in the upcoming 2020 census, a wide spectrum of experts and civil rights advocates agrees.

It’s a simple strategy to counteract myriad steps the Trump administration has taken to subvert an accurate count of everybody in the country – a count mandated by the constitution every 10 years through the decennial census.

“This is one of the most significant civil rights issues facing us today,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in a media telebriefing on April 5 hosted by major civil rights groups.

Data from the decennial count determine everything from how many congressional representatives a state gets to how much money the government allocates for schools, hospitals and transportation needs – and much more.

“Communities of color are at risk of being undercounted and left behind,” Gupta said. “The stakes are too high to remain on the sidelines.”

Cuts in funding have already disrupted efforts to improve the accuracy of the data collection.  As things stand now, Gupta said, the agency will face a shortfall of $933.5 million from what it needs to keep 2020 preparations on track.

Amplifying concerns, on March 26  Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the addition of a new question about respondent’s citizenship status, despite opposition from six former Census Bureau officials, two former Commerce Secretaries and experts in the field.

The timing of Ross’ proposed question is unprecedented. It comes too late to allow the Census Bureau to conduct the careful testing it typically performs prior to making such significant changes.

“We know that adding this question on citizenship status will cause participation in the census to plummet,” Gupta said.  She called the decision “deeply flawed…a failure of leadership and a capitulation to President Trump’s nativist agenda.”

“This is a tactic to scare people away from participation in the census,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of NALEO, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund.  “The purpose is very clear: the administration does not want Latinos to be counted.”

Vargas noted that Latinos, at almost 58 million, are the nation’s second largest population group – almost 18 percent of the total population.

“Already we had expressed our concerns about what an online census would mean to the ability of all people to be counted,” he said, referring to the 2020 census’ reliance on digital participation.  Most at risk for an undercount are very young children. In 2010, an estimated 1 million very young children went uncounted, of whom 400,000 were Latino.

Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, called the changes “a thinly veiled, back-door effort to suppress” the representation of non-white Americans in official consideration.  “The prospect of an epic undercount of African Americans and all people of color in the 2020 Census is becoming more of a reality each day.”

The African American community has always been undercounted, Morial noted, starting with the 1790 Census when slaves were considered three-fifths of a person.  In 2010, African Americans were undercounted by more than 2 percent, and African American children by 6.5 percent. By contrast, whites were overcounted – by 1 percent in 2000 and again by 1 percent in 2010.

Morial also noted that last month’s decision to continue what he called a “prison based gerrymandering” policy – counting prisoners where they are incarcerated rather than where they come from – will further ensure a geographic miscount.

“I have no doubt that had it been left to Census Bureau professionals, that decision would have been reversed. But when the administration came in, politics prevailed.”

John Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, pointed out that decisions to cut the number of census workers and offices by 50 percent will undermine outreach to the very communities the census has struggled to reach in the past, and trim the followup efforts to reach those who don’t respond to the initial survey.

Asian Americans were identified by the 2010 census as the fastest growing ethnic group in the nation, increasing by 46 percent since 2000, Yang said.  Some 80 percent of Asian Americans either immigrants or children of immigrants, putting them at high risk for an undercount.

Pointing to widespread fears among immigrant communities of exposing vulnerable family information, Yang emphasized that the Census bureau has the most stringent confidentiality rules of any government agency.  Even that, he warned, may not be enough to ensure participation in today’s charged political climate. Responding to a reporter’s question, he agreed that the confidentiality protocols were adopted following revelations that the census during World War II helped identify Japanese Americans for internment.

“How do we explain that the best way to fight back, the best way to have a voice in policy discourse, is to be counted,” NALEO’s Vargas challenged.  Noting that “there is a great amount of fear in Latino communities and in immigrant communities across the country,” Vargas said the advocates’ task now is to turn that fear into empowerment.   “We will not cower in fear and not be counted…we will be the ones to defend American democracy.”

“The fight to save the census is not over, by any stretch,” Gupta said. She cited lawsuits already filed by the state of California against Ross’ proposed citizenship question, another by a group of states led by New York, and efforts by the Conference of for oversight hearings followed by legislation in Congress.

“Together we can make sure the Census is fully funded and the decision to add the question on citizenship is overturned,” she said.

 Mark Hedin is a reporter with the San Francisco Study Center