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The Census? It’s Not Over Yet!

On October 13, the US Supreme Court granted an appeal from the Trump administration to halt Census2020 on Oct 31, in a shocking reversal that will end the count sooner than expected. An earlier injunction by a California District court had allowed an extension because of disruptions caused by the pandemic.

The decision left states and census advocates scrambling to meet an impossible December 31 deadline to review, process, tabulate and report census reapportionment and redistricting data.

This means that the Census Bureau has just six weeks – not six months – before delivering apportionment counts to the President.

What Will Happen
What’s likely to happen is that the final enumeration will be inaccurate. Historically hard to count populations -minorities, people of color, and marginalized communities – will be undercounted in the final tabulation.

That, in turn, will impact the distribution of resources – funding for roads, schools, hospitals, food assistance and health services – that vulnerable communities rely on. The consequences for marginalized communities are dire. The pandemic has already restricted their use of safety net resources, but an undercount will threaten their access to those resources for the next decade.

Pushback against the new ruling has been swift.

Justice Sotomayor, dissenting from the grant of stay, wrote that “The harms caused by rushing this year’s census count are irreparable. And respondents will suffer their lasting impact for at least the next 10 years.”

Civil rights advocates say it blatantly disrupts a census count that has been ten years in the making. They denounced the Trump Administration’s countless efforts to sabotage the census for political gain, calling the ruling a dismaying decision that “undermines American livelihoods as well as our democratic system.”

Census advocates echoed this view at a briefing hosted by The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights and Ethnic Media Services on October 20.

“Everyone in America regardless of political affiliation or ethnicity, should be deeply troubled by the President’s attempt to undermine and misrepresent data from the 2020 Census,” said John Yang, President & Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC).

Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League which spearheaded litigation against the Trump directives, called the Supreme Court a ‘willing co-conspirator’ that has “aided, abetted, facilitated” the administration’s effort to politically interfere with the census….and to cheat the American people of their constitutional right to representation.”

The Constitution is clear. It mandates that ‘all persons’ – not all citizens – must be included in the decennial census and in the apportionment count. Advocates at the briefing called Trump’s executive order an attempt to amend the US Constitution.

Impact of the Ruling
The ruling underscores historic attempts to erase undercounted communities from the census and ongoing efforts by the Administration to keep non-citizens off the decennial.

Up next is a Supreme Court hearing of a Trump directive that seeks to exclude non-citizens from the congressional apportionment. Earlier, a ruling by federal judges in New York found the executive order unlawful.

These legal challenges undermine the democratic process on which our country was founded, said panelists. A flawed count will affect apportionment – redistricting legislative districts based on newest population counts and redistributing seats to represent those districts in the House of Representatives. In undercounted areas, marginalized communities risk losing fair representation in government.

What’s at stake is the constitutional intent of the count.

How Census2020 played out
Census officials have planned Census2020 for ten years. When COVID19  hit, they outlined a timeline to ensure they would reach an accurate count during the pandemic.

The Bureau spent over $6.3 billion on a campaign to get the count out.  It bolstered partnerships with community organizations and civil rights groups at national and local levels to encourage participation in the census.

“The Administration’s refusal to let Census Bureau experts determine the best schedule for completing the count and reporting results really created enormous chaos and confusion in the field,” said Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference.

Census2020 is one of the largest decennials, but the run up to its final count has been buffeted by natural disasters and an unrelenting pandemic, making it the most difficult of enumerations.

“We have worked so hard to push our communities to participate in the census and tell them how it will benefit their lives,” said Yang, so rushing to transmit apportionment data to the President by December 31, completely undermines those efforts.

Minority communities will take the fall
Experts agreed that rushing the census will shortchange minority communities.

Historically, self-response rates from communities of color nationwide tend to be lower than non-Hispanic white and US self-response rates. Latinos, tribal areas, Blacks and swathes of Asian residents need more targeted outreach – “more door knocking enumeration” – which requires extra time.

Panelists called a Census Bureau statement that it had topped 99% completion rates ‘a myth’. That rate only refers to households on the address list, but do not indicate if all householders were included or completed the census forms. “Do not be fooled,” warned Morial, “if there was fake news, this is it!”

The perils of an undercount include overcrowding in schools and hospitals, and congestion on roads. It will put communities in a tough spot that will be hard to recover from. Hastily tabulated data will harm the nation, but that risk falls disproportionately on communities of color.

“Make no mistake about it. There has never been an accurate count of Latinos in a decennial,” said Arturo Vargas, CEO of NALEO, referring to historical interference that has denied Latino participation in the census, whether it was asking Latino immigrants to boycott the census, or barring their inclusion in it. “The odds are consistently against a census that fully includes all (almost 60 million) Latinos.”

Morial pointed out that “The Black population count was already in jeopardy from the start,” because African American communities have not even reached the national self-response rate of 68%.

In Indian country, that rate is 25% below the national average, said Kevin Allis, Leader of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), arguing that his community is invisible to the rest of the country. In 2010, Indian country suffered an undercount twice the national average.

Allis also pointed out that the federal government has a treaty and trust responsibility owed to tribal nations (covering infrastructure, health and education and economic development), in exchange for millions of acres that tribal nations ceded to the US for settlement. Chronic underfunding has created disparities in Indian country. A census that falls short, will further decimate the funding and representation promised in those treaties, warned Allis.

It’s not over yet
“It would be a mistake for anyone in the public or the media to think that the Census is over,” said Gupta. What is over is the data collection process from a 150 million housing units. In the next phase, the Bureau will process raw data to produce a count that accurately reflects every US community. Data will determine the distribution of real resources in neighborhoods.

It’s a massive and complex undertaking that needs time, says Census Bureau experts (the Gov. Accountability Office and the Commerce Department’s Inspector General).

Rushing the census will force the Bureau to cut corners and compress vital quality checks that could skew data and create errors, advised Gupta. “The ramifications will last decades.”

The data processing phase is crucial to ‘fill in the blanks’  added Vargas. Checks and remediation are needed to ensure that forms are complete, all household members included, and to fix erroneous and duplicate responses. It requires meaningful consultation with stakeholders to deal with disclosure avoidance systems and make sure nobody is left behind.

Flawed data will lead to flawed decisions that harm everyone, warned Allis.

It takes time to integrate quality indicators that measure and translate census data into accurate apportionment counts. If you erase people from the census, the domino effect at play will see federal programs and fair elections start to fall.

Political interference has reduced a six month process to two, and that will undermine the integrity of the count, so we need to “excise politics from the process,” urged Morial.

The Bottom Line
Without an extension, millions of people will be left out of the count. That includes people in rural and tribal lands, people of color, people with low incomes and people experiencing homelessness.

“In a lot of ways this has always been the Trump administration’s goal, from the failed citizenship question, to Trump’s unconstitutional memo to erase undocumented immigrants from the count. The administration has been trying over and over again to dictate who counts in this country,” stated Gupta.

Congress Must Act to Salvage the Census
There isn’t a clear roadmap ahead if the Census Bureau is forced to produce an inaccurate count.

Advocates at the briefing urged Congress to take immediate steps to reset the course of the census and stave off damage that could last the next ten years. They suggested the public put pressure on congressional delegations to free the census of political and partisan interference going forward.

The Leadership Conference has endorsed  a bipartisan bill to save the census, and asked Congress to push back the reporting deadlines by 120 days each – extending the reapportionment deadline from December 31 to April 1, 2021, and the redistricting deadline from April 1 to July 1, 2021.

“Congress has to set a clear path forward” Gupta added, because it is their constitutional responsibility to protect the integrity and accuracy of census data.

“Look. The decennial census sets a standard for data quality that must be preserved,” said Yang. “It should be something the US Census Bureau achieves without interference.”


Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents

Photocredit: Photopin

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/

California’s Diversity Makes Accurate Census Difficult

California’s rich diversity of ethnic populations makes an accurate census count extremely challenging, says Karthick Ramakrishnan, founder and director of AAPI Data.

“California’s diversity is the source of our strength. There’s a lot that we gain from having the kind of racial diversity. At the same time, those factors make it more challenging to count,” said Ramakrishnan, who serves as the associate dean of the UC Riverside School of Public Policy, and professor of public policy and political science.

Ramakrishnan cited a lack of in-language resources, geographic diversity, including populations living in rural areas, and first-generation immigrants who may not understand the census process or its importance as barriers to getting an accurate count of California’s population.

Many immigrants also fear the information they share on the nine-question form may be shared with immigration enforcement authorities or the Internal Revenue Service. “It’s important to reassure them that all of the information they provide is protected by law,” and not shared with other agencies, said Ramakrishnan.

“The census is constitutionally mandated by the US Constitution to make sure that every person counts. So this includes citizens as well as non citizens regardless of their immigration status or what kind of visa that they have,” he said.

Reaching the Asian American Pacific Islander population poses some unique challenges, said the researcher, noting that a large percentage of the population of California are first generation AAPIs with limited English language proficiency.

“So it’s so important for us to make sure that we are reaching out to them in a language that they understand and that we’re using trusted messengers, people that they trust from their faith-based associations to nonprofits that serve them so that they can be reassured that this information is protected,” said Ramakrishnan.

The U.S. Census Bureau conducted a survey of Asian Americans, Blacks, Hispanics and whites two years ago.Two-thirds of Asian Americans surveyed said they were extremely to somewhat concerned that their data would be used against them.

About 43 percent of AAPIS surveyed said they would not likely fill out the Census form. Only 22 percent said they were familiar with the Census.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also made it harder to reach populations that have had a history of non-participation. “The disease and the economic fallout are hurting communities that are least likely to be counted by the census,” said Ramakrishnan, advocating for investments in health care and economic assistance for vulnerable communities.

Census data, collected every 10 years, is used to allocate federal resources and accurate representation in Congress. Businesses also use data from the decennial survey to determine where to set up shop.

As of early July, more than 46 percent of California households had filled out their Census forms, according to the California Census 2020 Campaign. San Mateo County had the highest response rate in the state, with over 72 percent of residents returning the survey, which can be mailed in or filled out online. Enumerators do go door to door to reach households who have not filled out their census forms.

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.”

Don’t Let Us Disappear From The Census Say Youth Contest Winners

At a time when San Francisco lags behind the statewide average in census response rates, youth artists and writers have a special message for those who have not yet filled out their forms: “Don’t let us disappear.” 

The young people spoke at a June 3 virtual awards celebration honoring winners of a Census contest for 14-21 year olds dubbed “Why My Family Counts.” The contest drew over 100 contestants working in several mediums, including watercolor, charcoal and pencil sketches, as well as poetry, essay, spoken word and video. The contest was designed to engage youth in the process of ensuring an accurate census count.

The celebration opened with a panel of civic leaders and census experts who drew direct connections between young people insisting on being counted and nationwide protests over racist violence.

 “Our communities of color and particularly our black community are in pain,” noted Adrienne Pon, Director of the Office of Civic Engagement and Community Affairs which sponsored the contest. “Today’s event is about more than an art contest.  It’s about celebrating the voices and creativity of our youth who choose to express themselves … in ways that give us reasons to hope that tomorrow will be a better day, that black lives matter, that we ALL count.”

Currently, San Francisco has a response rate of 58% compared to the state average of 61%. The Bay Area overall has a 68% response rate. Last week, the county hit a plateau, registering an increase of only 1%, noted Robert Clinton, OCEIA’s project manager for the 2020 Census. Clinton noted that tracts of the city which reported high rates of COVID-19 infections also had low census participation rates, as did neighborhoods with the lowest income levels.   

Clinton said that the census “is one of the many tools that our federal government has to make us seen as a people but also to erase us as a people.” He referenced the long lengths of time people wait on the phone to reach a census operator as well as limited language options.

“The language of the census doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to people who are limited English proficient who are under educated or who have been marginalized in many other ways,” Clinton said.

Stephanie Kim, Director of United Way Bay Area, described the census as a tool of empowerment that “gives communities a say in who leads the political institutions that have the power to protect or to harm us.”

“Our communities deserve to thrive, not just survive. The same racism that permeates our justice system and sanctions police brutality also has robbed many black communities of the resources they need and deserve,” said Kim.

David Tucker, a census expert with the state complete count committee, pointed out that since 1980 California’s black population has had a below average participation rate. “We need to use this opportunity that we are under siege for social injustice to speak out. While I know we are getting exhausted, I am encouraged and excited by the messages you are sending out to your families and friends. The census is the thread that binds us all.”

Sonny Le, a specialist with the  Census Bureau, announced that the Census Bureau wants to activate youth leaders who could become census enumerators in their own communities. Le, who  grew up as a refugee from Vietnam in a Tenderloin apartment with three other families, noted that  “For me, the census is  personal. Some of my relatives are still facing the same problems of access and services I did in the 1980s.”  

Youth speakers followed the census advocates with personal stories echoing the importance of the census as a tool of visibility and empowerment.   Angelo Gerard Ubas, 14, said “I  painted a family of birds standing on a tree branch looking at the city skyline which was blurry. I know the census doesn’t count animals…but the census will sharpen the image of the city, of who lives here, and help government know what they have to do to improve.”

Maygie Li, 21, said her family immigrated from China and moved to Montana where her grandparents helped build the railway. She is currently a student at California College of Arts. In drawing the face of  a woman etched against a map of Native lands in Montana, she aimed to uplift an invisible population, and show “how we are all connected and need to be counted.”

Elijah Ladeki, 18, recited his poem entitled “Counted Out” which he wrote “as an opportunity to help my community.” The poem, excerpted here, describes “all my life” living in housing projects.  “I will look  at my single mother and wonder why she is stressed/I can’t miss out trying to give us a mention/It’s been way too long putting our rights on layaway.”  

Jesse Martin, 15, shared his video of a Thanksgiving meal celebrating his large family which he calls “a mix of different ethnicities which are the foundation of San Francisco. If we don’t get counted, we get silenced.” 

Bobbi Brown, 21, recited her tribute to the 2010 census, “No one should disappear/Everyone should count/community and fear/that out/2020 Census include all of mine …”

For full texts and paintings by these and other winners, please go to https://ethnicmediaservices.org/myfamilycounts/

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We’re Living The Undercount Say Texas Advocates

Fiercely committed to a complete count of Texas residents for Census 2020, advocates across ethnic groups are re-thinking tactics and strategies of how to increase self-response rates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We all know that we are in a really difficult time right now with COVID-19,” acknowledged Katie Martin Lightfoot, community engagement coordinator for the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin. “Many of the resources that working folks and families across our state are relying on now to survive are determined by census data.”

In a virtual forum hosted by Ethnic Media Services for media and census advocates, speakers underscored the struggle between bringing the urgency of the census message home to people while still keeping a distance. “Our main challenge in getting everyone to fill out the census is that we’re missing that human touch,” conceded Paulina Lopez, a Census Bureau senior partnership specialist responsible for the state’s 35 southernmost, heavily Latino counties.  “We’re not giving up,” she said emphatically.

“No more door knocking?” questioned Nestor Lopez, an economic development analyst at the Hidalgo County Judge’s office. As an alternative, “we installed loudspeakers on our cars,” he said. Lopez helps oversee census outreach in the largely rural communities along the border, a region where cell phones have limited reception and Internet access ranges from unreliable to non-existent. Filling out the census on-line is rarely an option, Lopez noted.

Tenacity and ingenuity may still triumph over current circumstances, if these and other strategies listed by speakers prevail. If they do not, the alternative is grim. “If a baby is born and is not counted,” said Dr. Sylvia Acosta, CEO of the YWCA El Paso del Norte Region, “we will not have resources for that baby until they’re 10 and how are communities going to survive that?”

Paulina Lopez, also a member of Acosta’s YWCA board, described one successful outreach initiative.  With a $1,000 reward in the balance, a contest was launched to see which of two competing schools could turn in the most completed census forms from their respective school’s parents. “With this initiative we were able to complete 130 questionnaires,” Lopez said, stressing that the goal is not just outreach but measurable participation and results.

Ray Shackelford, National President of the Young Professionals of the National Urban League which targets hard-to-count urban neighborhoods, described efforts to harness  the mass appeal of Instagram-live events. Hosted by d-jays with countrywide followings, this digital platform has propelled successful National Urban League registration campaigns and is a template the League plans to use to educate younger African Americans about the census. Shackelford said the hope is that the younger cohort will influence peers and elders.

The Texan African American community continues to expand with the addition of African and Caribbean immigrants and intermarriages. If there is any advantage within this universe of prospective census respondents, it is general familiarity with English, an asset not shared by the Asian American community.

“There’s about 1.7 million Asian Americans living here in Texas,” said Nabila Mansoor, census director of the Empowering Communities Initiative, “and we have been under counted for decades.” Not only do Asian Americans live in Hard to Count census tracts, she reported, but the language barrier compounds the difficulty of garnering high census response rates. Her messaging emphasizes the link between accurate census data and funding for health care.   “Some 163,000 Asian Americans have no access to health care in Texas,” she noted.

Even before the pandemic, the odds were high against an accurate count. Dr. Lila Valencia, Senior Demographer for the Texas Demographic Center in Houston, noted that Texas is second only to Alaska in size and second only to California in total population

As of late May, the Texas self-response rate was just under the national average of 55 percent, but it is the hard to count tracts, urban as well as rural, that keep advocates up at night. In the 2010 census, a quarter of a million Texas residents were uncounted. A mere one percent undercount in 2020 could cause Texas to lose $300 million per year until 2030.

Though non-Hispanic whites are still the state’s largest ethnic group, Valencia noted that close to 90 percent of the new population added since 2010 has come from non-White ethnic groups – with Latinx presence accounting for over half of that number, and Asian Americans representing the fastest growing group.

Nina Perales, Vice President of Litigation for MALDEF based in San Antonio, has worked to reform the state’s redistricting process for two decades. Even if an accurate count is achieved, she warns, there’s the danger that it won’t translate into political representation.

Every 10 years, each state’s congressional and other districts are redrawn by its respective state legislature after receiving the newly collected census information. “In every cycle of redistricting, Texas has been found by the courts or the Justice Department to have discriminated against Latino voters,” Perales explained.

Even under the best of circumstances, the timeline for the Texas legislature to handle redistricting is brief. This year because of the pandemic, census data will not be released until April 2021, affording the Texas legislature only a month to redraw lines unless it convenes a special session for that purpose.

For Perales, a bigger concern is the Trump administration’s effort to collect citizenship data through the census and ultimately have the citizenship population be the sole demographic criteria used to draw up congressional districts. Citizenship only representation is already a stated goal of the Texas Republican Party platform. Should that occur, simply being a resident of Texas, rather than a citizen, would have no representational weight.

Panelists concurred that loss of political representation would not bode well. They view getting an accurate count as tantamount to laying the groundwork for a better quality of life.

Juanita Valdez-Cox, executive director of LUPE (La Union del Pueblo Entero) for over 20 years, described what failure to raise the response rate would mean for the colonias (unincorporated communities) of the Rio Grande: “Our schools are going to continue to be underfunded, our roads will continue to deteriorate, public funding for health care will dry up. An undercount will take congressional and state legislative seats from or area.”

“We live the consequences of an undercount,” Valdez-Cox said, summarizing the sentiment of conference speakers. “The census staff suspended its work because of concerns about the virus. We didn’t close down. We just started working from our homes.”


Photo Credit: Photopin

 

 

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

Final Census Tally May Leave Kids Out

The 2020 census, now in its second month of collecting data, is on track to be “one of the most incomplete in history,” according to UCLA researcher and advisor to the U.S. Census Bureau Paul Ong.

In keeping with past collections, kids younger than 5, people of color, and households that include immigrants, are impoverished or lack English-language skills are the most likely to be uncounted in the census tally, a reality that will affect government spending priorities for the next decade,

The nationwide household response rate for the past month has been at least 11% behind its 2010 census rate (https://tinyurl.com/UCLACensusStudy), Ong says. In that census, considered the most accurate yet and with a 74% response rate, the population most left out — officially 2 million — was kids younger than 5.

Being counted in the census benefits individuals and their communities. In general, for every person of any age, being counted in the census is worth an extra couple of thousand dollars of government funds for hundreds of programs, including many that target kids’ well-being by boosting their education, nutrition, housing and more. Since 2010, the uncounted children’s needs have been left out of funding decisions.

Almost 16.5 million kids younger than 5 live in the United States now. The Washington, D.C.-based Population Research Bureau (PRB) recently estimated that up to 25% of them — 4.065 million — live where there’s a “very high risk” that their household will not complete the nine-question census form. And another 9.29 million are at “high risk” of not being counted.

In those very high risk regions, as of early May, the household census response rate was 48.6%, while the overall national rate was 54.6%. Households of all sizes, rather than individuals, comprise the basic unit of census responses.

Kids deemed at very high risk of not being counted live in poverty; among adults 18-34 with low educational attainment; in households either led by women with no spouse present or only with grandparents; in households with limited English-language skills; in immigrant families or in families that are renters.

The PRB study (https://tinyurl.com/PRBstudy) found that these conditions varied by ethnicity. Among African Americans, for example, 48% of kids younger than 5 are considered at very high risk of not being counted. For Latinos, it’s 38%, and for American Indian/Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islanders it’s 31%.

The very high risk rate for Asian Americans kids 0-5 is 28%. It’s 22% for those identifying as being of two or more ethnicities, and for non-Hispanic whites it’s 9%.

The PRB study also offers some new tools to identify where this year’s potentially uncounted children live, the better to ensure their inclusion in the census count.

Of the nation’s more than 3,000 counties, 689 were home to 93% of 2010’s uncounted kids, the researchers found. From there, the study highlighted the census tracts — typically about 4,000 people each — within several major U.S. urban areas to show where kids are most likely at very high risk of being overlooked.

In Miami-Dade County, 84% of its kids younger than 5 were in that category. In Philadelphia the percentage was 64%. New York was 57%, Washington, D.C., 53%, and Harris County, Texas (Houston), and Cook County, Illinois (Chicago), both 40%. Wayne County, Michigan was 39%.

Linked to the PBR study were interactive maps drawn by the City University of New York’s Center for Urban Research with detailed descriptions of each census tract, nationwide, and a link to a downloadable Excel spreadsheet.

The descriptions, including estimates of how many kids live in the census tracts and under what circumstances, are largely based on information in the American Community Survey (ACS), which the Census Bureau gathers in between the decennial censuses, and other non-decennial Census Bureau studies. They offer more details about people’s circumstances but don’t attempt to count everybody.

Another resource is CUNY’s “Hard to Count” maps(https://tinyurl.com/CUNYsHTCmap) that have tracked census response rates and challenges since the data-gathering process began in mid-March.

Because the ACS and other non-decennial surveys extrapolate from samples, the resulting data isn’t used in the important decisions based on the decennial census, such as how many seats each state has in Congress or how $1.5 trillion of federal funds are spent every year.

If you want you or your kids to be included in those plans for the 2020s, it’s time to make sure you and your community are counted. The next chance will be in 2030.

Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

Jonathan Mehta Stein Wants To Hear Every Voice

On the day he assumed leadership of California Common Cause, Jonathan Mehta Stein said getting people counted in the 2020 census is crucial to the organization’s goal of making politics more democratic.

“First and foremost, respond to the census…We want our fair share for our communities,” he said in an interview with EMS. The lifelong Bay Area resident comes to Common Cause from San Francisco’s Asian Law Caucus, part of the national Asian Americans Advancing Justice organization. He also worked for the American Civil Liberties Union after earning his law degree at UC Berkeley.

Watching his non-naturalized Indian immigrant mom’s political activism and seeing up-close challenges to effecting change inspired his work, he says.

“We had this sense that participation matters.” Stein emphasized census participation as a priority because data the Census Bureau is collecting will not only inform how the federal government will spend more than $1.5 trillion annually over the next ten years. It will also form the basis for U.S.

Congressional apportionment decisions and individual states’ redistricting plans. Common Cause pioneered redistricting reform by driving California’s 2008 Voters First Act, also known as Proposition 11, which put the job of determining the boundaries of the state legislature’s 40 senate and 80 assembly seats into the hands of a bipartisan commission of 14 non-politicians (wedrawthelines.ca.gov).

Two years later, Proposition 20 expanded that commission’s authority to include California’s 53 congressional districts. By making the process public through hundreds of community meetings up and down the state to gather input on how political maps should be drawn, and then review proposals, the reform curtailed the ability of incumbents to draw districts to include only those voters most likely to re-elect them.

“There are some communities that have been locked out intentionally,” Stein explained, for example by dividing a relatively homogenous community into smaller pieces folded into surrounding districts, thereby reducing it to minority status in each.

States decide for themselves where their political boundaries are drawn. Over the years it’s led to the process called “gerrymandering,” in which those in power could draw the boundaries in such a way as to favor their re-election.

In the wake of the Voters First Act, “California has become a model for the rest of the country,” Stein said. Nine other states have followed suit, and now have bipartisan redistricting commissions of their own.

“In both Republican and Democratic states, voters have consistently approved independent redistricting,” Stein said.

Congressional reapportionment, the once-every-decade parceling out of seats in Congress according to population, is done by the Clerk of the House of Representatives, but census data informs those decisions as well.

Stein is also passionate about changing the role of money in politics and what he calls “the absurdist campaign finance system.” While working as an enforcer of campaign finance laws in Oakland, he said, he saw that 93% of campaign contributions came from just 1% of the population.

He is intrigued with Seattle’s “Democracy Dollars” voucher system that provides community members small public fund vouchers they can assign to a campaign or candidate of their choice.

This changes the dynamic of candidate fund-raising and community engagement by making it well worth their while to engage with constituents in other ways than high-stakes, exclusive fund-raising events.

Stein also has his sights set on increased voter participation. He cited “deep voter disparities” such as Asian Americans voting at a 33% rate, and Hispanics voting at 36%. Every other group votes at or above 60%.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, “our in-person outreach no longer exists,” Stein notes. “We have to find ‘virtual’ ways.” In a Facebook Live event, Stein called for “culturally competent, linguistically competent messengers.”

“You need a different message for different communities, for those frozen out of power, out of philanthropy.” You can’t advocate “restoring democracy,” he said, to those who felt they were never included in the first place.

“If we want to build a society that is more equitable,” Stein said, “it’s time we build a democracy that hears every single voice.”

 

Congress Asked to “Save” Census 2020

“A nightmare” is how Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), defines what the coronavirus pandemic has meant to the carefully planned efforts to make the nation’s Latino community count in the 2020 Census.

“We are moving forward with a new strategy and message, but deep down we know that there is no way to get to a full count without door-to-door visits” he said. “And at this point, we don’t know if the Census Bureau will be able to be on the street doing that follow-up work as planned in June (the original date would have been mid-May). I think by the end of this month the writing will be on the wall.”

NALEO and other groups continue to work to “turn the boat around” — to make the transition from hundreds of in-person events and follow-ups to paid and earned media to reach the so-called “hard-to-count” Latino community vulnerable to undercounts. But the confidence that the result will be reliable is fading with each passing day.

Arturo Vargas, Executive Director, NALEO

“Postponing the census until next year is an option that should be on the table,” Vargas added. “There is no reason to risk the health of the enumerators or the public.”  Congress will have to act because the statute sets two dates for delivering this data to Congress and the states. Brazil has already postponed its census.

Part of the nightmare for Vargas and other Latino activists is that so far the response from this population has been, on average, too low. While Latino communities tend to be undercounted in every census, this year the situation was already complicated. And then, the coronavirus hit.

The Trump administration’s handling of the last few years of preparation for the 10-year count mightily complicated things, including the decision to include a citizenship question that was finally rejected by the Supreme Court. The damage remains, however, as surveys continue to record that many Latinos still believe they will have to answer a citizenship question in the census.

Experts say this inhibits community members’ participation because they fear their data would be mishandled or used for immigration enforcement or other purposes.

Nationally, 48.6% of households already had answered the basic nine-question form by April 14, but the numbers were much lower, on average, in areas with high Latino populations, said Dorian Caal, a NALEO researcher, and data analyst.

“If we look at counties with more than 50% Latino population nationwide, the average response is only 23.1%,” he said. “For counties with 20% or more Latinos, the response is 29.8%. The truth is that the fewer Latinos in an area, the higher the response. In other words, the Latino population’s participation is still far below average.”

Leaders expect Latino participation to improve after more than 60 million paper questionnaires are sent in mid-April to people who have not responded online. Research indicates that the paper response is the one most favored by Latinos.

Some small cities with high Latino populations, particularly those with nearby rural areas populated by many farmworkers and migrants, have desperately low census response numbers. Two examples in Fresno County: The city of Huron has a 6.3% response and the city of San Joaquin 4.6%.

In California, whose response exceeds the national average, 49.2% of the population has filled out the census compared to the nation’s 48.6%. California has spent more than $180 million promoting the census to secure its piece of the pie. States like Texas, which spent no money on outreach, have seen a lower return — 44.2% so far.

The situation in tribal areas is even dimmer because of the difficulties of carrying out the work door-to-door at a time when many tribal nations are restricting access to their lands and have a negligible online response level.

Also having a negative effect is the suspension of a program called “update and leave” that reconfirms the addresses of highly mobile or remote households and where workers leave census packets in person, said Caal.

Although only 5% of households were on these “update and leave” lists, some states have higher percentages of such addresses. This is the case in New Mexico (37.7%) and Alaska (32.4%).

The fair distribution of more than $1.5 billion in federal spending and political representation in the nation over the next 10 years depends on an accurate census.

But the Census Bureau had no plans for carrying out a census during a pandemic. Just three days after this interview with Vargas, the unthinkable happened: Census Bureau leaders and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross asked Congress for a four-month delay in the statutory deadlines for delivering population data to the executive and legislative branches.

The next day, President Trump said that perhaps this delay was “not enough” and that perhaps “we don’t have to ask Congress because it is an act of God.”

For NALEO, however, while the delay is logical, it represents a serious risk to the quality of the resulting data. There is a danger that the final result will be “incomplete and inadequate,” according to a statement from the organization.

Vargas called on Congress to intensify its oversight role of the face-to-face follow-up phase of the census to maintain the process’s integrity.

“Congress has the authority and obligation to work with the Bureau to take the necessary steps to ensure an accurate census of all U.S. residents,” he said.

The request by census leaders and the Department of Commerce would extend data collection until October 31, 2020, with the numbers delivered to the president and Congress by April 30 and July 31, 2021, respectively. President Trump´s current term in office ends January 20, 2021.

But according to the experts, time is not on the side of the census. The data will become more and more imprecise the further the fieldwork moves away from the April 1 date, which is when the “picture” of the country is supposed to be taken. All answers must be related by law to who was residing at home, at school, or in the country on that day, and not after.

“The Constitution places the responsibility for the census in the hands of Congress,” according to a NALEO statement on April 14.  “In light of that obligation, it is time for Congress to step up to the plate and intensely monitor the 2020 Census if we are going to save it.“

Pilar Marrero is a contributor for Ethnic Media Services.


Photo by Louis Velazquez on Unsplash

Capturing the Face of Multi-Ethnic America

1. Can I identify my race in the census?

Yes.

Census 2020 collects data on race and ethnicity to capture the face of multi-ethnic America. 

The Asian race category which was added to the census in 2000, offers an option to mark national origin  as ‘Asian Indian’

Asian refers to people originating from the Far East, Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. An ‘other Asian’ option is available for subgroups from the Asian diaspora such as Pakistan and Cambodia.

The term ‘race’ was first introduced in the 1890  census which distinguished between East Asian subgroups  – Chinese, Japanese and Indian (Asian) while the 1930 census actually had a color category  for Hindus.

The race question and heritage is based upon self-identification which means you can choose more than one option to describe your racial identity. 


2. Will I become a target for ethnic discrimination if I disclose my national origin as Asian Indian?

No.

Some Asian Americans fear that marking their race or national origin  on the census will lead to racial profiling and make them targets of ethnic discrimination.

But the census format only reflects how classifications of race and ethnicity have changed in society since the first census in1790.

Data collected on race informs federal policy decisions on civil rights, educational opportunities, promoting equal opportunities ,and assessing environmental risks and racial disparities in health care access, housing, income and poverty.

 

3. Is the census available in any Indian languages?

No. 

Paper census forms will only be available in English and Spanish and people can respond to census questions online or over the phone in 12 other languages.

However the Census Bureau will provide guides, glossaries, and a language identification card for ‘limited English speaking households’ for a total of 59 languages that include Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Nepali, Urdu, Telugu, Punjabi, Tamil, Malayalam and Marathi.

Since 1890 the Census has collected data on English-speaking ability and languages spoken at home to help determine bilingual election requirements under the Voting Rights Act.

 

4. Does my information remain confidential?

Yes. 

Census information is PRIVATE. The Census Bureau values the trust respondents place in them to be ‘caretakers’ of the data they collect. Information is used only to produce statistics of the US economy and population for federal programs.

Individuals are never identified.

Strict confidentiality laws prohibit the Census from sharing information it collects from respondents. Your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court. Your data is protected by Title 13 of the US Code.

 

5. Is this information distributed to ICE and other government agencies?

No.

The Census Bureau does not share respondent information with immigration, law enforcement, tax collection agencies or any other organization. Security measures are in place to ensure that any census data released to federal agencies or organizations, are carefully reviewed to avoid disclosing individual information

Surveys are mailed to addresses, rather than to specific individuals, to protect the confidentiality of participating households.

So, it is safe, especially for immigrant families with children – a group that is traditionally undercounted – to participate in the census.


6. Will I have to disclose my citizenship?

No.

The Census is a count of everyone living in the US including citizens, non-citizens, undocumented immigrants, non-citizen legal residents and non-citizen long term visitors. 

The Constitution “does not say citizen, it does not say legal resident, it says the census must count all persons in the 50 states and the primary constitutional purpose is apportionment.” says Terri Ann Lowenthal, a Census Expert.

The addition of the citizenship question made people wary about participating in the census for fear it would expose non-citizens to ICE interrogations. But the Supreme Court BLOCKED its inclusion in Census 2020 so immigrants (legal and undocumented), refugees, minorities and their families are not deterred from participating in the census, and the population count is more accurate.  

What’s at stake? An accurate count ensures that each state gets the right number of congressional seats to represent its population and receives its share of $900 billion each year in federal funding to support communities, families and infrastructures.

Remember – you don’t count if you’re not counted!

 

7. I’m on an H1B visa and my spouse is on H4 visa.  Will participation in the census affect our status?

No.

The H1B visa is issued to foreign-born workers and skilled professionals who account for a significant proportion of IT occupations in states like California and Texas.

In 2018, USCIS reported that Indians accounted for 73.9 percent of total H1B visa holders in the USA and that  93% of H4 dependent spouses were from India.

Though the census includes all foreign-born non-immigrants in its population count, it does not collect data on their legal status. The law ensures that personal information is not shared with any agency, including law enforcement. All data at the Census Bureau is kept confidential and protected from disclosure.

 

8. How many questions does the Census have?

Nine. 

Each household will receive a form that asks about basic demographic and housing information that covers:

  • The number of people living or staying in your household as of April 1, 2020.
  • If your home is owned with or without a mortgage, rented or occupied without rent.
  • A phone number of someone living in your home.
  • The name, sex, age, race and date of birth of each person living in your home.
  • Whether anyone is of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish descent
  • The relationship of each person to a central person in the home.
  • Data collected on age for example, helps local officials plan program funding for health and assistance to seniors and children.

9. How do I respond to the Census?

You can respond online, by mail or by phone. 

Between March and April 2020, Most households will receive an online invitation to participate in Census 2020. Areas less likely to respond online will receive a paper invitation. Reminders will be sent out and if people do not respond they will receive additional reminders and a paper questionnaire, or an in-person follow up.

For questions about the census call 301-763-INFO (4636) or 800-923-8282 or go to ask.census.gov

Meera Kymal is a contributing editor to India Currents

All Media Assets: U.S. Census Bureau