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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.”

America, Let’s Take a Selfie?

It is Census Day, a snapshot of our country, but what is happening with the census during the COVID-19 outbreak? 

A panel of experts shared information at a telebriefing held on April 1, 2020, in partnership with Ethnic Media Services

Though Census 2020 kicked off on March 12th, the deadline has been EXTENDED to August 15, 2020.

This gives everyone more than enough time to complete the NINE question survey. That’s right, only nine questions. 

There are no questions related to citizenship, so everyone living and working in the States – should respond to the census  regardless of citizenship status.

Ditas Katague, Director of California Complete Count  and a census outreach veteran, shared  interesting insights into census statistics. So far, 37.9% of Californians have already filled out the census; the national average is 38.4%. California leveraged its efforts to address diversity within California by budgeting  $187 million to increase the count – a significant increase over the 2 million budget Katague received for the 2010 census. California is a difficult state to count because of its teeming diasporas; hopefully this larger budget will be able to address the needs of those who have been undercounted in the past. 

Eleven million out of California’s forty million residents are hard to count. June Lim, Demographic Research Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, explained that hard to count populations include immigrants, non-English speakers, older people, and minorities that distrust the government. Asian and Asian Pacific Islanders are a demographic that is “least likely to respond because they believe the census bureau won’t keep their information private.” However, everyone is protected by Title 13 of the U.S. Code and personal information cannot be given to anyone, including the President.

“Our communities will be taken more seriously if we’re counted,” stated Basim Elkarra, Executive Director of CAIR,  a sentiment that was endorsed by the other speakers. It is imperative that minorities get the representation they deserve. The census determines “power, money, and data”, Katague emphasized, because it has become more transparent than before that “data drives emergency funding.”

The US Census Bureau has suspended activity because of the pandemic and is planning to start census efforts again on April 15th. People  do not need to worry about anyone knocking on their door amidst the fear of spreading coronavirus, especially if they respond online, by phone at 1-844-2020-0274, or mail. 

The best way to avoid contact with the virus and to continue social distancing is to complete the census online.

For more information, reference our previous article here!

Coverage for Census 2020 has been facilitated through a grant from the United Way Bay Area.

Srishti Prabha is the current Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.
Coverage for Census 2020 has been facilitated through a grant from the United Way Bay Area.