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Census Takers To Knock At Doors

Californians have two weeks left to self-respond to the census. In mid-August intrepid brigades of census foot soldiers will set forth to knock on doors and round up people who have not yet filled their forms.

For the last six months, getting people to self respond to the census has been the focus of an extraordinary network of state and community leaders as well as trusted messengers, who have collaborated on hundreds of creative initiatives to drive home the message that every person counts in Census 2020.

What has that effort accomplished so far in California?

Despite the committed efforts of census partners to push the self-response rate (SSR), it’s been a rocky road. After troubleshooting the threat of the citizenship question, the census continues to battle the misinformation that could derail its efforts; most recently, the White House memo to exclude undocumented people from the apportionment process has reignited fears, especially among marginalized communities.

In the background, the COVID-19 pandemic tragedy plays on. As  Californian communities struggle to fend off its devastating impact, census officials have been forced to revise operations and extend self-response deadlines from July 31 to Oct. 31, as the pandemic completely upends its original timetable.

But even with these hurdles, California and the Bay Area have much to be proud of.

As of August 3, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, and Solano Counties have all exceeded their 2010 census self-response rates! Marin is 0.3% away from the milestone, Santa Clara is less than 2% away, and San Francisco is about 8% away. To have come so far in the middle of a pandemic say census officials, is a testament to the continued efforts of the its network of partners.

Across California, census officials confirm that an estimated 9.7 million households have already taken the census, with  2 million of those from hardest-to-count homes.

So far, California’s self-response rate is above the national average – 64.1% versus 62.8%, respectively.  California also has had the most households respond to the Census, compared to other states. In census tracts where the foreign-born represent a higher-than-median share of the tract’s population, California has the highest average self-response rate (SRR), making it a national leader among 10 other states with similarly high racial and ethnic diversity (New Jersey and Maryland which are ahead have smaller populations)

But certain census tracts in California and the Bay Area are still lagging.

The California Complete Count – Census 2020 Office has been blanketing the state with multilingual appeals to encourage hard-to-count populations to fill out their 2020 census forms. But an analysis of the response data  shows that many other Californians – including those on the Westside of LA and San Francisco – still need to do their part if the state is going to achieve the same success it had in 2010.

While the Bay Area’s average self-response rate is 70% (less than 2% from the 2010 SRR), the number is only 58% for its hardest-to-count tracts  which have residents who are largely renters, people of color, immigrants, or have limited English proficiency. More than 40% of hardest-to-count communities are still to be enumerated.  In looking at the data, the Census Office noticed a trend – some areas that have been historically easier-to-count are responding at lower rates than normal. in Los Angeles, there are low response rates spanning from Malibu, through Beverly Hills and West Hollywood and into Studio City.

Some San Francisco neighborhoods are at a 20 point lag behind the 2010 SSR.  It’s a similar scenario in other parts of the state including the enclaves of Newport Beach and Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Census advocates are urging residents to respond on their own, online, by phone, or by mail, so they can be removed from the list of addresses needing an in-person visit by a census taker. They have until August 11 before in-person, door-knocking, follow up operation begins.

The Final Countdown

In the meanwhile, in a final push to keep the count alive, census partners are launching a ‘WEEK OF ACTION’, to promote  the census and engage participation. Activities have included a  #WeHellaCount Twitter Storm to discuss pertinent questions and tweet responses and an aerial ad flying through Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, and San Mateo counties.

A final phone banking push will continue till  August 14; the Asian Law Caucus has helped create a guide with messaging suggestions to tackle questions on the White House Memo.

The State of CA has planned a few additional activities including their GOTC Virtual Pep Rally Thursday August 6 from 11am-noon.

“The Census is important for everyone. We need all Californians to do their part. We’re calling on all Californians to take the Census by Friday – our Get Out the Count Day, since efforts will begin shifting away from self-response. It’ll take all of us to reach an accurate and complete count,” said Ditas Katague, Director of the California Complete Count – Census 2020 Office.

Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents

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

2020 Census: Making Every Voice Heard in the Bay Area

We have a once-in-a-decade opportunity to lay claim to what is rightfully ours in this country—a fair say in who leads the political institutions that have the power to protect or harm us, and that provide resources for fundamental human rights like health care, food, and housing. The nine simple questions on the 2020 Census will inform how more than $1.5 trillion of federal funding is invested in communities – especially for those who historically have been undercounted and underrepresented — how voting district lines are drawn for the next 10 years, and how many seats are allocated to the Bay Area  in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Bay Area communities are responding to the 2020 Census in starkly disparate ways.  As in past census counts, people who are of color, LGBTQ+ , low income,  experiencing homelessness, immigrants and refugees, and those with disabilities and who have young children have historically been missed – and  are at dire risk of being left out once again.

Estimates show that for every person not counted in the 2020 Census, California could lose $1,000 a year in federal funding for the next 10 years. Counties throughout the Bay Area rely on census-informed federal funding for education, free and reduced school lunches, community health care, accessible transportation, and other programs we rely on every day. Counties will be utilizing census data in the coming years for economic relief programs, public health research, and to create policies to help the long-term recovery of communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, Alameda County receives 60 percent of its revenue from federal and state sources. If Alameda County is undercounted by just 3 percent, the county could lose $1 billion over the course of 10 years for essential programs that are needed more than ever in the wake of COVID-19.

Unfortunately, we are seeing widespread disparities in response rates in communities across the Bay Area including San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland. East Oakland neighborhoods have not only been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 but are also currently responding to the census at only 50%. In places like San Francisco’s Bayview and Hunters Point neighborhood, the number is closer to 40%. Statistics aside, an undercount of any of these communities results in an incomplete and inaccurate portrait of our community members, overcrowded classrooms, underfunded services, and underrepresentation for policies that support our long-term recovery as a region. An undercount in any of these communities is an undercount in the Bay Area and it affects all of us.

The good news is that there is still time, and there is a network of hundreds of nonprofit, philanthropic, business, labor, and local government organizations fighting to ensure a complete and accurate count of the Bay Area despite the challenging circumstances. However, time is quickly running out. Starting in August, the U.S. Census Bureau will send Census Takers to visit the homes of people who have not yet responded. Every Census worker has sworn an oath to not share anyone’s personal information under penalty of prison and/or a significant fine and is required to carry an identification badge with the Department of Commerce logo on it. They are prohibited from asking for confidential information such as  citizenship or immigration status,  social security numbers, bank account or credit card numbers.

That said, it is best to respond on your own so that no one is sent to knock on your door: online at https://my2020census.gov/, by phone at 844-330-2020 (a list of in-language options is available here), or by mail with a paper questionnaire.

The census is so much more than an address-based count; it’s a fight for every person to be seen, to be included, and to be valued in our diverse community. When people are left out of the census, their existence, contributions, and struggles are erased from the story of our diverse community. Resources and political power meant to support them and give them a voice are assigned somewhere else.

If we each take three minutes to get counted–and remind a neighbor to do the same—we can make sure the 2020 Census represents all that the Bay Area is today and create a better tomorrow.

Stephanie B. Kim is the Senior Director of Census 2020 at United Way Bay Area

New Threats Loom Over Immigrants In Census 2020

On July 21, 2020 President Trump issued a bombshell memorandum calling for ‘illegal aliens’ to be excluded from the final census count when determining how many congressional seats are allotted to each state.

The memo triggered a firestorm of protests and lawsuits filed by immigrants’ rights groups, Common Cause and the ACLU, as well as legal challenges led by a New York state-led coalition of 20 states.

In the memo, the President claimed the authority to block undocumented immigrants from the apportionment base, an assertion that the ACLU called “a lawless attempt” to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census count.

The memo drew condemnation from civil rights groups who called the order  ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘xenophobic’, and promised to fight the policy to ensure that everyone, regardless of immigration status, understands they count in the census.

This view was echoed by a panel of civil rights advocates at an ethnic media briefing hosted by Ethnic Media Services on July 24.

The memo suggests that undocumented communities will not count in apportionment.” said John Yang, AAJC President and Executive director. “That’s unconstitutional!”

Arturo Vargas, Executive Director of National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) described the Trump policy to erase undocumented immigrants from the count as an attempt to “cook the numbers.” and  “make a new data sets”.

There is no citizenship question on the census nor does it ask for the legal status of immigrants, and neither can the Census Bureau share any personal information about respondents with ICE or law enforcement. Given that there is no way to determine the exact number of undocumented immigrants in the census count, any exercise in removing them after the count will have to rely on estimates that are likely to be imprecise, Vargas explained.

As outreach efforts were scrapped to comply with federal guidelines on COVID-19, the census has faced significant challenges in completing a fair and accurate count. “Political interference makes it more complicated,” said Vargas, a census expert in Latino demographic trends and redistricting.

Census2020 has invested heavily in promoting the message that everyone counts in the census – non-citizens included. But the Trump memo could undermine that effort.

“The memo has same messaging effect as the citizenship question,” noted Nestor Lopez, an economic development analyst and census organizer from Hidalgo County, South Texas.

The ACLU lawsuit challenged the order as “a discriminatory attack on immigrants and immigrant communities, and particularly immigrant communities of color. It is intended to … send the message that they do not count.”

That message could dissuade immigrants who already fear a citizenship question from participating in the census, and threaten the accuracy of the count. This would result in the loss of millions in federal funds for these vulnerable communities and disproportionate representation at the US Congress.

Hidalgo County in South Texas is a sobering example of what could happen to a community that does not respond to the census. Lopez, who has led census outreach efforts there, said that this impoverished corner of Texas has a large undocumented population that has been historically undercounted for the last two decades.

As a result of its inadequate health and welfare infrastructure and overwhelmed hospitals, Hidalgo County has become a COVID-19 hotspot, where, health officials say the virus is wreaking havoc on communities. Dr. Peter Hotez of the Baylor College of Medicine told CNN that “We had 34 deaths in the last 24 hours in not a very large county, so South Texas is just getting hit incredibly hard.”

Last week Hidalgo County officials threatened to criminally prosecute people who don’t quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19.

In Texas, which has not allocated funding for census activities, Lopez said that Hidalgo County was relying on ‘boots on the ground”  trusted messengers, non-profits and sound trucks to spread the word before stay-at-home orders derailed their efforts.

COVID-19 has disrupted census operations making it an uphill battle” to reach key demographics, said Lopez, adding that “unfortunately, COVID-19 is exposing what not responding to census will do.”

In a final push to encourage people to respond to the census amid coronavirus restrictions, census advocates are improvising new ways to coax participation out of marginalized communities.

“You only Count If You’re Counted,” is the essence of census outreach PSAs being shared on airwaves and utility bills and through faith-based organizations, said  Marilyn E. Stephens, of the Census Bureau, describing how her office is tackling census messaging for Southern District of the US.

“The goal has not changed for a fair and accurate count of all our communities,” reiterates Yang.

The possibility of losing congressional seats and federal funding drives advocates trying to rise above the fear tactics and misinformation around the census, and combat divisive messaging from the Trump administration in its attempt to intimidate immigrant communities from participating.

Pro-immigrant groups are  taking that challenge to court. “Today, we are sending a clear message: All communities will be counted,” stated Theo Oshiro, deputy director of Make the Road New York. “We will keep organizing and fighting to ensure our communities receive the representation and resources that we deserve. We urge the court to stop this reckless memo in its tracks.”

“Every person counts in the census,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, who successfully argued the U.S. Supreme Court case blocking the Trump administration from placing a citizenship question on the 2020 census

“Undocumented immigrants are people — and nothing President Trump does or says changes that fact.”

Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents.

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

Photo by visuals on Unsplash




Taking The Pulse Of America In The Pandemic

Our paychecks and mental health took a beating in the pandemic, say Americans.

The Census Bureau agrees. The results of its experimental Household Pulse Survey confirm that’s where American households have been hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.

As the virus surged across the United States trailing economic and social havoc in its wake, it completely upended life as we know it.

It has taken a devastating toll on households, disrupting jobs, livelihoods, education, housing and healthcare.  The pandemic has forced a ‘new normal’ upon the American public, putting lives on hold as people yield and adjust to a new reality.

When daily life stalled in US due to quarantine and shelter in place restrictions, so did Census 2020. The Census Bureau had to recalibrate plans to complete its ongoing decennial and adjust operations in response to an unexpected crisis precipitated on the population it was preparing to survey.

In April, the Census Bureau set out to take the pulse of households affected by the pandemic.

It launched an $1.2 million Household Pulse Survey. to gauge the impact of the social and economic effects of COVID-19 on American households. The survey began on April 23 and will continue over a period of 90 days  through late July; data is collected and released on a weekly basis.

The Household Pulse Survey examines how lives in American households have altered as they experience the pandemic, by measuring the the impact on jobs, finances schooling , physical and mental wellbeing, as well as access to food, housing and health care.

The study asks questions such as: Did anyone in your household experience a loss of employment income ? What will you use your stimulus payment for? Did you get enough food? Feeling nervous, anxious, or on edge? Able to stop or control worrying? Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?

The survey which is available in English and Spanish, was designed in collaboration with the Bureau of Labor Statistics; the USDA Economic Research Service; the Department of Housing and Urban Development; the National Center for Health Statistics; and the National Center for Education Statistics.

Data that the survey captures on the widespread disruption to individuals, families and communities across the country will provide valuable insights to federal and state efforts targeting post-pandemic policy and recovery.

In its initial analysis, the Census Bureau found that almost half of US households lost  wages during the pandemic.

Results were most concerning for households with children. Adults in households with children were more likely to report permanent loss of employment and food shortages since the pandemic began.

In 55% of households with a child under the age of 18, at least one adult had lost employment income since the COVID-19 pandemic started. The responses indicated that these households sometimes did not have enough to eat “when compared to adults not living with children.” Adults in these households “were also less confident in their ability to pay their rent or mortgage on time.

Earlier in May, the World Health Organization warned of “a massive increase’ in depression and anxiety as social distancing leading to isolation and increased stress,  was compounded by the “distress caused by loss of income and often employment.”

Critics of the Household Pulse Survey caution that the standard error for the data is high, given its low response rate; nonetheless, the survey results are worrying.

In its evaluation of the data, the CDC estimates that the percentage of adults who reported symptoms of anxiety or depression experienced these symptoms “ more than half the days or nearly every day.

The impact on mental health is ‘disturbing’ but consistent with how people’s lives are” at this time, reports a Census Bureau official.

As they face an unpredictable future that is full of questions with few easy answers, many families feel fear and uncertainty.

Is this situation permanent? Temporary?

Or are we stuck on pause for the foreseeable future?

Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents.

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

Photo by Owen Beard on Unsplash



The Homeless Count In The Census

Reaching into neighborhoods to count the homeless for the census is a formidable task, given that homeless people are a transitory and transient community with no fixed address. But this year, the 2020 coronavirus pandemic makes that undertaking even more challenging, both for census takers at risk of encountering a lethal virus in face-to-face interactions, and for the homeless who  have nowhere to ‘shelter-in-place’.

Where the homeless are

Squirrelled away in locations that make their whereabouts difficult to pinpoint, the homeless are hard to count to begin with. The places they call home rarely have a mailing address. They live under bridges and in  tunnels, in makeshift homes and shacks, and  are not easy to find unless grassroots community sources can account for them. Those who seek homeless shelters, soup kitchens, social services  or city streets are more accessible to enumerators, but the ‘fluid’ nature of their lifestyle can contribute to inaccuracies in the estimate.

Understanding homelessness

Research shows that mounting an accurate count of homeless people is complicated. “Counting the homeless population is extremely difficult because of the lack of a clear definition of homelessness, the mobility of the population, and the cyclical nature of homelessness for many individuals. In addition, homeless people are often reluctant to be interviewed, and many of them remain invisible even to the most diligent of researchers.”

The NIH study reported that attempts to count the homeless in order to extend funds for emergency shelters or  food distribution nationwide has produced data that must be interpreted with great caution because “the everchanging and fluid nature of the homeless population presents great methodological challenges in obtaining an accurate measure of its size. ”

Who counts as homeless?

A key issue is defining who counts as ‘homeless’. The label itself has come under fire from advocates who demand a redefinition what it means to be homeless.

The push-back on the label “homeless,” rises from the complexity of living situations that people experience.

Nonprofit organizations working with the  homeless in San Francisco prefer to use the term ‘unhoused’ because “most individuals experiencing homelessness are doing so because they’ve had one, two, three—or more—strokes of bad luck that led to their current circumstances.” In a study conducted by Stanford professor Thomas Wasow, one participant objected to the term homeless explaining, “ the reason is, ‘I have a home, it’s Palo Alto. I’m unhoused.”

Researchers in the  NIH study also called for better definitions to be developed “concerning who is considered homeless  and defining Subgroups, such as homeless families.

Given this context,  how will the Census Bureau go about the business of  accounting for this marginalized community,  even as in-person outreach efforts are scaled back due to the pandemic?

Revising Outreach Plans to Count the Homeless

An integral part of the Census Bureau’s outreach efforts has been to create a network of local nonprofits and trusted messengers at the grassroots level to administer the enumeration.  For example, in California, the United Way Bay Area (UWBA) is implementing a census outreach initiative called Bay Area Counts 2020 with local non-profits and community partners.

That investment has earned a 63.2 % self-response rate for California (as of July 13), just ahead of the national rate of  62.0%.

However, health and safety concerns with COVID-19 forced the Census Bureau to delay counting people experiencing homelessness in the 2020 Census.  But, in renewed operations  scheduled between September 22 and 24, the Census Bureau is adjusting its operations for vulnerable, homeless and transient communities.

The Census Bureau is coordinating with local service providers and consulting with advocacy groups and other stakeholders to adjust its approach and boost outreach into this hard-to-reach population in response to COVID-19. Census takers will follow the latest local public health guidance regarding the use of personal protective equipment and social distancing.

The Census Bureau now plans to send specially trained census takers to count people at shelters, service providers and locations which the Census Bureau has identified as places where people are known to sleep. They will also work with local groups to identify these locations.

Census takers will count people in person at previously identified potential outdoor locations such as under bridges, parks, wooded areas, designated beach areas, tent cities, alleys, and under highway systems as well as  all-night businesses ( transit stations and 24-hour laundromats).

They will obtain data from emergency and transitional shelters with sleeping facilities for people to stay overnight,  such as “missions, hotels and motels used as shelters, and places for children experiencing homelessness, neglected,  or who have run away from home. Census takers will work with the administrators at different service provider locations including soup kitchens and regularly scheduled mobile food vans, to utilize rosters to ensure a complete count of this population.

People experiencing homelessness will be counted where they are staying when census takers visit between September 22-24. People experiencing homelessness who are not counted in households or other operations will be counted where they stay or receive services when census takers visit.

In its message to shore up support for the homeless count, the Census Bureau reiterates, “Census statistics are crucial to programs and service providers that support people experiencing homelessness. A complete and accurate 2020 Census can ultimately help organizations provide better services, more food and improved shelter options to those in need.”

Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents

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


Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Photo by Adam Thomas on Unsplash

You Count If You’re South Asian & On An H-1B

South Asians who are ‘foreign-born’, on H1B visas, refugees or even asylum seekers can still participate in Census2020! Find out how.
#SouthAsian #immigrant #2020Census #BayAreaCounts2020 #CompleteCount #MeeraKymal

1. Are South Asians included on the Census?

Yes. You count in the Census if you can trace your origins to Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The term ‘South Asian’ also includes members of the South Asian diaspora – past generations of South Asians who originally settled in other parts of the world, including the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, Canada and the Middle East, and other parts of Asia and the Pacific Islands.

The South Asian advocacy group SAALT reports that almost  5.4 million South Asians currently live in the United States, an increase from the 3.5 million counted in the 2010 Census. Indians comprise almost 80% of the total South Asian population which grew by 40% between 2010 and 2017. South Asians are projected to be the largest immigrant population in the United States by 2065, with communities concentrated in New York, New Jersey, California, and Texas.

Participating in the census will provide data that local leaders, the government, and policy makers need to better engage with and serve the rapidly growing South Asian community. So if you are eligible, fill out the census form!

 2. Can South Asians participate in the Census if they were born abroad ?

Yes. You can participate in the census even if you were born abroad but you are a naturalized U.S. citizen, a lawful permanent resident (immigrant), a new immigrant, a green card holder, or a temporary migrant such as foreign student. You can also participate if you are a refugee or asylum seeker (humanitarian migrant) and even if you are undocumented (an unauthorized migrant) or not a citizen, but you are resident in the US.  The Census does not ask you for your legal status but collects data on all ‘foreign born’ residents (anyone who is not a US citizen at birth)

You should participate in the census if you are ‘native born’ . That includes anyone who is a US citizen at birth including people born abroad to a US citizen parent(s), in Puerto Rico, a U.S. Island Area (Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), and of course the US.

3. Does my visa status permit my participation in the census?

Yes. South Asians who are foreign nationals hold specific visas that permit them to live, work and study in the US. In 2018 for example,  three-fourths of H1B visa were issued to Indians, over 9.5% of green card recipients and 86% of H-4 visa holders in FY 2017 came from South Asian countries.

South Asians who hold the following visas must complete the Census form:

  • H-1B visa – you hold a non-immigrant  visa and are a graduate level, specialty worker employed by a US company.
  • H- 4  visa – you are the dependent spouse of a H1B worker.
  • L1 visa – you are a non-immigrant employee of a US company such as an executive or manager who has transferred from an affiliated foreign office.
  • L2 visa – you are the dependent spouse of a L2
  • F1- visa – you hold a student visa that is valid for five years from the start date of your program.
  • F2-visa – you are a non-immigrant dependent(spouse or child) of an F1 student.
  • J-1 visa – you hold an exchange visitor visa issued for a maximum of 5 years, (for example, teachers, professors, research scholars, specialists and au-pairs), who are on educational and cultural exchange programs in the US.
  • J-2 visa – you hold a non-immigrant visa as the spouse or dependent (unmarried children under the age of 21) of a J-1 exchange visitor.
  • If you hold any of these temporary visas (e.g. E3s, O1s) you do have to fill in the census form based on your situation as of April 1, 2020.

You also can respond to the Census if  you are a member of the diplomatic community and a citizen of a foreign country who lives in the United States for six months or more during the 2020 Census. You should be counted at the U.S. residence where you live and sleep most of time or where you were staying on April 1, 2020.

Every US resident irrespective of their long-term visa status will receive a census questionnaire with a unique 12 digit Census ID code. You can fill your information online at my2020census.gov .

4. Does my short-term visa status mean I have to fill out a Census form?

You cannot be included in the census if you are a citizen of a foreign country who is temporarily visiting the United States on vacation or business as of April 1, 2020. This includes B1/B2 visa holders – visitors from abroad who are in the US for a short term temporary visit.

5. I don’t speak English fluently and need help filling out the census form.

The Census Bureau provides tools that will allow over 99 percent of all U.S. households to respond to the census in their language – so you have several options.

Paper census forms are available in English and Spanish and the online questionnaire is available in English and 12 other languages.

You also can contact Census Call Center  at 301-763-INFO (4636) or 800-923-8282 or ask.census.gov and  respond to census questions in these 12 languages.

You also can phone the census hotline at 1-844-330-202 for more information.

Video language guides narrated in more than 59 languages are available to help non-English speakers respond online.

Print language guides and translated web pages are available in 59 non-English languages ( including Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Nepali, Urdu, Telugu, Punjabi, Tamil, Malayalam and Marathi) to help people complete the English paper questionnaire. These guides also are available in American Sign Language, as well as in Braille and large print.

By August through October 2020, census takers who speak the language(s) of their community will follow up in person with households that don’t respond on their own. They will carry a Language Identification Card which has a brief statement in the 59 non-English languages. If the census taker encounters a language barrier at the door, they can request that a census taker who speaks the household’s language returns to complete the interview.

If you need help filling out the census go to my2020census.gov. for online assistance or contact Customer Service Representatives for additional support using this link.

Meera Kymal is a Contributing Editor at India Currents. 

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

Photo by Ashwini Chaudhary on Unsplash



This Is US: Older, More Diverse, But Less Fertile

America is graying but the nation is more racially and ethnically diverse, and also less fertile, says the Census Bureau when it released population estimates about the country’s demographics on June 25.

The nation is aging fast

Aging Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964 are driving the rapid increase in the nation’s 65-and-older demographic. In the last ten years the 65-and-older population in America has grown by over a third .

The aging of America has raised the national median age from 37.2 years in 2010 to 38.4 in 2019, according to the Census Bureau’s 2019 Population Estimates.

Perhaps no other generation has left a mark on the American population as distinctive as the boomers, one of the largest generations in the country.  When they were born, the post-war ‘Baby Boomers’  grew the the ranks of the young and then the workforce they entered as adults.

Now, almost a half century later, boomers will expand the number of older adults as they age, states Census Bureau demographer Jonathon Vespa. Starting in 2030, when all boomers will be older than 65, older Americans will make up 21 percent of the population, up from 15 percent today

“The first Baby Boomers reached 65 years old in 2011,” said Dr. Luke Rogers, chief of the Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Branch. “Since then, there’s been a rapid increase in the size of the 65-and-older population, which grew by over a third since 2010. No other age group saw such a fast increase. In fact, the under-18 population was smaller in 2019 than it was in 2010, in part due to lower fertility in the United States.”

By 2060, nearly one in four Americans will be 65 years and older, the number of 85-plus will triple, and the country will add a half million centenarians.

The face of the nation is changing

But even as the nation is graying, the composition of the American populace now reflects more people from increasingly diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds. The Census Bureau has recorded an increase in population across almost every racial and ethnic category its 2019 estimates.

The Asian population in the United States jumped to 22,861,985 in 2019, representing an 29.3% increase since 2010. Los Angeles County in California had the largest concentration of Asians, but the Asian population grew the fastest in Forsyth County, Georgia, increasing by 10% between 2018 and 2019.

  • The American Indian or Alaska Native population has grown by 3.1% since 2010 is also concentrated in Los Angeles County (229,594 in 2019).
  • The national Black or African American population grew by 11.6% since 2010 to 48,221,139 in 2019.
  • The Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander population was up 21% since 2010 to1,612,424 in 2019.
  • The Hispanic population was up by 20% to 60,572,237 in 2019 since the last decennial.

Keeping pace with the graying trend, the median age also rose for every ethnic and racial group across the board.

Fewer babies are being born

In recent years natural increase (or births minus deaths) has declined steadily over the past decade, dropping below 1 million in 2019 or the first time in decades due to fewer births and more deaths.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s national and state population estimates released today, forty-two states and the District of Columbia had fewer births in 2019 than 2018,.

“Natural increase has been slowing over the last five years,” said Dr. Sandra Johnson, a demographer/ statistician in the Population Division of the Census Bureau.

“This demographic transformation caused by a rapidly aging population is new for the United States,” says Vespa. Though America has remained younger due to higher fertility and more international migration that trend is changing. “Americans are having fewer children and the baby boom of the 1950s and 1960s has yet to be repeated. Fewer babies, coupled with longer life expectancy equals a country that ages faster.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s national and state population estimates released today, forty-two states and the District of Columbia had fewer births in 2019 than 2018

After peaking  at 0.73% between 2014 and 2015, the nation’s population is continuing a multiyear slowdown growing only by 0.5% between 2018 and 2019, and currently estimated  at 328.2 million (2019).

Between 2018 and 2019 ten states saw a decline in population while four of them – New York, Illinois, West Virginia and Louisiana – had losses of over 10, 000 people.

Despite losing population through net domestic migration, California remains the most populated state in the country, followed closely by Texas, Florida and New York.

In less than two decades, the graying of America will be inescapable: Older adults are projected to outnumber kids for the first time in U.S. history says Jonathan Vespa.

“Already, the middle-aged outnumber children, but the country will reach a new milestone in 2034 (previously 2035). That year, the U.S. Census Bureau projects [PDF] that older adults will edge out children in population size: People age 65 and over are expected to number 77.0 million (previously 78.0 million), while children under age 18 will number 76.5 million (previously 76.7 million).”

As the number of older adults continues to swell, the need for healthcare coverage and other public services will increase. Based on this trend, says Vespa, “The U.S. is fast heading towards a demographic first. It will become grayer than ever before as older adults outnumber kids.”

Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents.

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

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

California Launches Census Week of Action

On Wednesday June 17, California launched a statewide Census Week of Action to urge all residents to respond to the 2020 Census.

In the Bay Area, almost 68% of households in the Bay Area have self-responded to the 2020 Census, almost catching up to the region’s final self-response rate from the 2010 Census (72%).

However, in a final push to get all Californians counted during this week of action, hundreds of census partners across the state are amplifying the importance of participating in the Census and renewing efforts to show  people how to take it.  The aim is to achieve as full and as accurate of a count of all Californians before census takers begin following up with households that have not yet responded in mid-August.

The California Census Office and its partners will mobilize print and broadcast media and engage in virtual events across the state to ensure the message reaches everyone.  The week-long campaign will utilize car caravans, phone banks, media interviews, webinars and billboards to get the message out. The focus is to remind the hardest to count Californians that its not too late to complete the Census.

Some of the scheduled events have included:

  • A Live radio show with radio partner KJLH celebrating Juneteenth and featuring an hour of music with prominent members of the African American community and a Spotify Playlist that will be shared to social media
  • California Census social media pages sharing content that educates the public about Juneteenth
  • A Census Caravan weekend featuring car caravans driving through strategically selected routes and displaying census messaging to raise awareness of Census 202o

Upcoming programs will include:

  • A Facebook Live event on Monday June 22, in honor of Father’s Day. It will focus on children under 5 and dads who will speak to the importance of families completing the census and getting their children counted
  • A live Facebook event on Tuesday, June 23, aimed at reaching Spanish-speaking households
  • A celebration of Pride Month that explains the Census now recognizes same-sex marriages and shares information on how transgender and gender-non-conforming people can complete the gender question.

During the week of action, Census partners  have been equipped with multiple resources to encourage community members to participate  in the Census. For example AAPI is offering  its network a toolkit to spread the word, while My Black Counts is promoting a campaign through its coalition of grassroots organizations to advocate for the community.

If you have not yet responded to the census, you can do so online (my2020census.gov), by phone (844-330-2020) or by mail.

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

Count Everyone, From Grandpa To The Baby!

1. Does the census count everyone living in a multigenerational household?

Yes.Count everyone, from grandpa to the new baby’.

Every resident in your multigenerational household must be included on the census form – that includes family, cousins, grandparents and other elderly relatives, young children, foster children, roommates and nonrelatives who are living with you – everyone in your household gets counted.

Research shows that racial minorities like South Asians and foreign-born householders tend to live in multigenerational households that typically include children, grandparents and other relatives.

The Census wants to count every person living in your home to make sure your community and others across the nation are accurately funded and represented for the next decade.

The big picture is that there are so many diverse communities in the nation and the Census must make sure the record reflects that.

2. Does the census count seniors who rotate between children living in different states, because they share eldercare for their parents?

Yes.  Senior parents should only be counted once in the place they live for six months or more in the US during the year.

If your senior parents split time between family in different states, they should be counted in the place where they reside for most of the year. That includes Greencard holder parents who split their time in six month segments between India and the US .

If your senior parents live in the US for less than 6 months of the year, then they should not be counted on your census form

Six months is the magic number for figuring out whether and where someone should be counted.

3. Does having a Driver’s License and Passport mean that you do not have to fill out a Census form?

No. It does not matter if you have a driver’s license, a passport, receive a Social Security check or are registered to vote.  That information is not automatically added to the census count.

You are required by law to fill out the census form that has nine specific questions which collect demographic data on each household to get an accurate snapshot of the population in a community.

Census 2020 only counts people who respond to the census forms by mail, online, by phone or who are counted by an enumerator.

Even if you have participated in other surveys like the American Community Survey, you are still required to respond to the 2020 Census.

4. If I rent out part of my home, who is responsible for completing the census form – Landlord or Renter?

In separate households under one roof, with parts (for eg. in -law units) rented out to other people, it depends on whether more than one address is associated with the property.

If the property is registered with one address, then the landlord is responsible for including all residents on the census form

If the boarder or renter lives with you and the other members of your household, you should include them on your questionnaire.

If the rented portion of your home has a separate address, the boarder or renter should complete their own census questionnaire and include everyone who lives at that address.

5. Who is responsible for completing the census forms in multi-unit households such as apartments or senior living facilities?

Group Quarters
Senior living facilities belong to a category of communal residences that the Census calls Group Quarters. It has a specific process for counting the people who stay in such group living arrangements . Usually these are places are owned or managed by an entity or organization that provides residents with housing and/or services. Group quarters include but are not limited to  senior living facilities, residential treatment centers, skilled nursing facilities, college residence halls and military barracks.

Group administrators identified by the census  are responsible for counting residents who live in group quarters.

Apartments/Multiple Unit Housing/Usual Residence
If you live in an  apartment building with multiple households that each gets separate mail, you are responsible for completing the census for your  own household unit.

If, however, the post does not deliver to multiple units or you live in a dense housing situation like a fraternity or a workers dormitory that fits the concept of ‘usual residence’, (where you live and sleep most of the time), then you have to coordinate with your roommates and respond to the census based on the address where you were living or staying on April 1, 2020.

6. Do you count Children in the Census?

College Students
Though college students are coming home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the  Census Bureau wants  students to be counted at their ‘usual residence’ – on-campus or off-campus college address, even if they  are living temporarily with  their parents’ or guardians’ home on Census Day (April 1, 2020, due to a  break, vacation, or due to COVID-19 closures.

Colleges and universities are responsible for sending the Census Bureau a complete count of students. If you counted your college age child on your form, you will receive a follow up query from the Census to make sure your child has not  been counted twice – at home and at college!

 Under 5 and Other Children in your Household
Yes. All children must be counted in the census form.  That includes babies and children under 5,  and the children of roommates, housemates, roomers, and tenants. Parents and guardians should count children at their ‘usual residence’ which is  the address where they live and sleep most of the time, even if their parent does not live and sleep at the same address. If you are not sure, count the child at the address of the place where the child was staying on April 1, 2020.

In a complicated situation such a joint custody between two households and if a child spends an equal amount of time in two or more homes, count the child where they were staying on April 1, 2020.

7. Why is this important

By responding to the census you help shape the future for your family and community. More than $675 billion in federal funding for important public services is at stake.  First responders, school meals, Medicare and Medicaid, food assistance programs, libraries and community centers – all depend on this money.

It also means fair political representation for your community – data collected on the census determines how many congressional seats each state gets in Congress and how district boundaries are drawn. The electoral system should reflect your community

Responding to the census is your chance to make sure you’re getting your fair share for your family and your community.

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

Photo by Ram on Unsplash

Draw The Lines That Shape Your Future

In 2018, Stephanie Hofeller, the estranged daughter of Republican strategist Thomas Hofeller, released files from her deceased father’s disk drives that eventually led to the Supreme Court decision to remove the controversial citizenship question from the Census.

The Hofeller files had a significant impact– they confirmed that politicians and political operatives were creating strategies to disenfranchise minority communities and manipulating redistricting laws to favor one race and one party.

Thomas Hofeller was credited with masterminding the 2001 and 2011 redistricting process for the Republican Party. He travelled the country wherever Republicans controlled the legislature and redistricting process, and rigged political maps to give Republicans an unfair advantage in winning elections and holding on to legislatures.

The citizenship question was born from Hofeller’s tactics to gerrymander voting districts in favor of the Republican party.

In Texas, Hofeller discovered that thousands of Latinos and minorities could be eliminated from the decennial by adding a citizenship question to the Census. In an unpublished study  he concluded that adding the citizenship question to the census would be ‘”advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites” when voting districts were redrawn.

Stephanie Hofeller shared this information with watchdog group Common Cause who added it to their legal fight challenging legislative maps her father had drawn for North Carolina. The information then made its way into lawsuits challenging the citizenship question at the Supreme Court, which eventually decided to axe the question from the Census altogether.

Political and gerrymandering schemes like these deter vulnerable minority communities from participating in the census, warned Kathy Feng of Common Cause in a briefing organized by Ethnic Media Services. She emphasized that politicians could exploit redistricting to skew power in their favor, making it increasingly important to ‘advocate vociferously’ for everyone to be counted in the census.

Feng urged communities to get involved in the redistricting process to increase their voting power and ability to elect a candidate of their choice.

As the nation grows more diverse, the changing face of America has to be reflected at every political level. Elected officials must voice the needs and concerns of the neighborhoods and communities they represent, instead of serving their own political interests.

When this does not happen, communities suffer.

What Redistricting Does

Voting districts are redrawn every ten years to reflect population shifts in communities across the country and ensure equal representation for all residents.

By law, once the Census is complete by December 31, the Census Bureau must release data on how many people live in each state and determine how many representatives will be allocated to each state in Congress.

Redistricting is an attempt to set the balance straight.

But when redistricting gets distorted, the imbalance can devastate communities.

Gerrymandering Hurts Communities

In 2012, Koreatown, the densely populated Korean American community in LA, was carved into four different districts along a valuable piece of real estate on the Wilshire Corridor that local politicians coveted for its donors, businesses and development prospects.

Koreatown is a largely immigrant, non-English speaking community that fell prey to politicians who illegally gerrymandered district boundaries, and formed voter blocks based on race, to give themselves the advantage in future council elections.

Despite appeals challenging the division, recounts Feng, during the 9/11 media blackout, the legislature split the community “into four different pieces behind a cloak of secrecy,” denying Koreatown residents a chance for more balanced and greater political power.

In another example of unfair redistricting, Watts, a predominantly African American and Latino community in SoCal was hit by a freak snowstorm in 2003, and appealed to congressional, assembly and senate offices for emergency aid. At the time Watts was split into three different districts and residents were told, “We don’t really represent you.” Feng described how residents “were essentially ping-ponged from one office to another and it took more than a week for the state to finally declare an emergency.”

If the communities in Watts were combined into a single district, they would have had enough voice to demand the state and federal help they deserved.

“The districting process not only can determine which candidates will win in specific districts, but also can determine which party ultimately controls our local, state, and federal legislatures,” writes Douglas J. Amy,  a leading expert on electoral voting systems at Mount Holyoke College. “In a very real way, then, the political manipulation of district lines devalues the vote and undermines the democratic process.”

Census Challenges Impacting the Redistricting Process

Redistricting can be complicated by populations shifting across district and state lines over a ten year timeframe, but this year operations have been hobbled by the unprecedented restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

People remain hard to count due to COVID-19

The Census Bureau faces a challenging task counting everyone with quarantines keeping people isolated and out of reach. If enumerators cannot gather data from hard to count, quarantined households, an accurate census count may be impossible. The decennial could exclude people who don’t self-respond because they have no computer or broadband access, and  “others may not even be sure about responding,” said Feng.

The Census Bureau has extended the timeline for data gathering through October, and redistricting could begin by July 31, 2021.

But it’s unlikely that lines can be redrawn in time before the next primary elections for federal and state candidates. 

The US population is on the move

Last year, the Census Bureau released data showing that the US population was moving southwards.  UC Berkeley reported that  the California housing crisis created an exodus from the Golden State as a shortage of affordable homes and low rents forced middle and low income people inland and to the south.

“In a recession or when times are hard, people move,” commented Feng.

Migration has an impact on how many seats are apportioned to each state for congressional representatives, because district lines have to be redrawn to reflect revised population counts.

As long as California’s population remains static, the state will retain its current quota of 53 representatives. But if the census count reveals a decline in population as people move to other states, CA will lose congressional seats. Projections from Election Data Services indicate that Texas and Florida are on track to gain congressional seats as more people move south. Between 2010 to 2019, cities in Texas –  Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth and Dallas – added the most people.

However, redistricting lines were drawn ten years ago and do not accurately reflect the current numbers of residents – populations shrink or increase as people move, are born or immigrate in each district.

“Ultimately you want to make sure that each district has an equal number of residents.” confirmed Kathy Feng. Essentially each district must have the same voice when it comes to electing their representatives, not just in Congress, “but all the way down to the state legislature, city council, and school board.”

The term ‘resident’, Feng clarified, means every citizen, immigrant, and undocumented person in the district, not “just the number of voters.”

Reform Redistriction

Traditionally, legislators were responsible for redrawing district lines, a practice that Feng called “self-serving” because legislators were influenced by partisan interests or preserving their own ability to rerun for office.

California led redistricting reform by selecting 14 independent commissioners from diverse communities, to inform the redistricting process by gathering input from public forums around the state. Citizen commissions offer communities an opportunity to share information and form districts based on where they reside.

In Culver City, “People lined up as if they were going to a rock concert rather than a public hearing” about their community,” recalls Feng.

California’s award winning initiative has set the national standard for independent redistricting through public engagement. Nine states have followed its lead. Michigan is giving power back to communities by adopting new rules to allow for the creation of a citizen’s commission to redraw lines.

By standing up to be counted, people could eliminate partisan gerrymandering in their districts and shape the future of their communities.  Equal representation from redistricting will empower minority communities if they choose to participate more actively in the census.

Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents

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


image: Elkanah Tisdale, Wikimedia

images: Kathy Feng, Common Cause

Why Should Anyone Care About the Census, Radio Mirchi Asks US

“The government already knows everything about me!”

“I go to them for my driver’s license and passport.”

“They already know what the population is in each town. That’s why when driving from city to city, the population is already presented on the road sign when you enter the city limits.”

So, if the government already knows everything, “Why should anyone care about the census?”

Why indeed!

Leading community leaders tackled the half-truths, misconceptions, and confusion behind why the census matters little to some people, on an episode of Radio Mirchi with RJ Sudha that aired Thursday, May 29.

Radio Jockey Sudha was joined by Vandana Kumar, co-founder, and publisher of India Currents, and Aarti Kohli and Julia Marks of Advancing Justice Asian Law Caucus, to examine why some people disregard the census and what that means to the future of minority communities.

April 1 (Census Day) came and went and with that, many people have forgotten about the census. Though California leads the national self-response rate at over 60%, about 40% of households have yet to respond.

“We’re a little way behind compared to self-response rates from 2010,” said Julia Marks, pointing out that an inaccurate census count could seriously impact California.

But what exactly does that mean for California and its diverse communities?

RJ Sudha had questions from listeners for her guests to answer. In fact, she herself was surprised to discover in the discussion, that “it’s the law to participate in the process!”

India Currents publisher Vandana Kumar on Radio Mirchi

Vandana Kumar, who’s had her finger on the pulse of the  Asian Indian community for over 32 years, had a perspective on why some people share the viewpoint of an Uber driver who once told her, “The government already knows everything about me. I’m not going to do this – it’s a waste of time.”

“It’s not that people don’t know about the census,”  she said, “they just don’t see its relevance. How do you convince somebody like that?”

Conviction needs to be rooted in facts and it was clear from the questions that people were apprehensive about the census because they were misinformed about its intention and impact.

Both Aarti Kohli and Julia Marks set about reassuring listeners by clearing up doubts and confusion about the decennial in what Marks (a self-confessed census nerd) called ‘shareable soundbites’.

Building Community Power

The starting point should be “How do we use the census to build power in our community?” said Aarti Kohli, the Executive Director of Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus and an experienced non-profit lawyer who works extensively with immigrants and undocumented. To her ,“The first basic step of building power is showing up and saying that I am here.”

Describing the census as “a fascinating and important structure in that is self-reporting,” Kohli reminded listeners that the census “starts with you. You are empowered to start with yourself.”

Out in the grocery stores and streets of Santa Clara for example, it is evident that the Asian Indian community is growing. Asian Indians communities have increased by 65000 people just in the last few years by some estimates.

But though “we might be visible to each other on the street,” said Kohli, “we won’t be recognized by the government and others until we fill out the census and that data is collected.”

“It’s worth remembering that populations are constantly changing in the Bay area,” added Marks, “it’s important to get it accurate.”

Get Your Fair Share
Both Kohli and Marks reiterated that the most important outcome of the constitutionally mandated census and the data it collects is to ensure that federal funds reach local communities in the right amounts.

“Responding to the census is a chance to make sure you’re getting your fair share for your family and your community,” explained Marks, referring to funding distribution for public schools that children attend, and government benefits, senior centers, medical and food programs that people use. “The message that resonates the most is that it helps you get your fair share!”

The other big piece is fair political representation. Data collected on the census determines how many congressional seats each state gets and how district boundaries are drawn. In order to have a representative government, said Marks, we need to know how many people live where so that the electoral system that adequately reflects those communities.

Key Points to Remember

  • It’s a short household-based survey that asks for basic demographic information
  • The nine questions cover gender, race and ethnicity, age, and date of birth
  • Start with the ID number that came by mail, but without it, you can still go online and or call the phone line to fill out the census
  • Include everyone in the household –roommates, cousins living with you, children, elderly relatives
  • For separate households under one roof, (e.g. rented out in-law units) each unit should submit separately or coordinate to complete one form together
  • In apartment building households getting separate mailing should file separately
  • If the mail does not deliver to multiple units then coordinate with your neighbors to complete forms.
  • College-age children coming home should be counted in the household but be prepared for a follow-up query from the Census to make sure your children have not been counted twice
  • Data asking citizenship and income details are not on the census form
  • Census responses are confidential and protected by law
  • The record states a penalty may be exacted from non-respondents but it’s unlikely to be enforced

Why Under Fives and Seniors are Missed Out in the Count

The undercount hurts the most vulnerable in the community. Children under 5 may be left out because they don’t count as adults or, in a joint custody situation between two households, one parent may assume the other parent has accounted for young children on the form

A key fact according to Marks, is that “More people are missed out in the census count because they were left off the form by the household they live in, than by a total failure of the households to respond at all.”

Kumar raised an issue culturally specific to the Indian community. How do you count green card holder parents who live between India and the US, or seniors who split their time between children in different states?

Marks confirmed that six months is the magic number for figuring out whether and where someone should be counted. “Having said that, if parents move frequently then the default date to use is wherever you were on April 1st.”

Reasons Why it’s a Challenge

Living in the new normal makes life challenging for people just trying to get through the day, all the guests agreed. At a time when people are grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, the lockdown and its economic impact, and civic unrest exploding across the nation, “ filling out a government form is not a priority.”

People with different immigration statuses – expired visas or work permits, and the undocumented, are worried about getting compromised or violating landlord rule, don’t get counted, said Kohli, who works as an advocate for these minorities. “They are part of our communities and have to be counted.”

But it is important to keep the message out there that the census is still ongoing, and people can and should still respond. At a time like this cautions Marks, “we need all these services really now more than ever – healthcare, housing support, food support, education – responding to the census will make sure that’s adequately funded for the next ten years.”

The Census Bureau is doing its part to reach out to underserved and undercounted communities by increasing its language options and expanding its outreach through local leaders and trusted sources.

“The Census Bureau has reached out in so many different ways” concluded Kumar who was tapped as a trusted messenger in recent Census initiatives to get the count-out in her community.
”How much more can they do to say we matter?”

Meera Kymal is the Contributing Editor at India Currents.

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

Don’t Mess With Texas!

The changing face of Texas

Asian Americans are the fourth largest and the fastest growing ethnic group in Texas, but a census delay could leave them out of the reckoning in the final census count.

Since 2006, Texas – the second largest state in the union – has been adding 1000 people a day to its population count says Dr. Lila Valencia of the Texas Demographic Center.

At an EMS tele-briefing on May 20 to understand what the delayed census count means for Texas and its immigrant population, Dr. Valencia pointed out that Texas now is the second most populous state in the country after California.

Domestic and international migration have contributed to the population explosion, she said, but, non-whites and minorities make up a significant proportion of the evolving demographic.

While 26% of the population are from non-white backgrounds (53% are of Hispanic origin), Asian Americans are the fourth largest and the fastest growing ethnic group in Texas.

Migration patterns show that the ‘face of the Texas immigrant is changing,” notes Dr. Valencia, with about 19% of new immigrants now arriving from Asian countries.

How the delay impacts Texas

Earlier in April, the US Census Bureau announced that they would delay operations till end October, a move that experts say will worsen the challenge for minorities trying to self-respond to the census. Studies show that self-response rates are lower for people of color due to economic hardships – pay gaps, poverty rates, and lack of insurance contribute to reduced civic engagement among minorities. The delay will exacerbate the undercount in low response populations says Katie Martin Lightfoot, a census community engagement coordinator at CPPP.

Working families, many from minority communities, rely on resource programs such as workforce assistance and healthcare which are funded by data derived from the census.

But, in the COVID era, many of these low response, hard to count families may be lost to an undercount perpetrated by the proposed delay.

Though more than half of households have self-responded to the census in Texas, the remainder of non-respondents are located in hard-to-reach counties that include children (under 5s), renters and non-English speakers in their ranks.

No longer can the census rely on enumerators knocking to doors to make sure that non-responders are included in the count.

Instead, outreach efforts will have to be reinvented due to restrictions imposed by the coronavirus, because in a pandemic with an extended deadline, hard to reach communities remain harder to count.

What’s at stake for Texas and its minorities?

The delay means losing momentum, potential funding and the safety net that these communities depend on for political representation, quality of life and public health and human services.

An undercount means that 300 million will be lost per year and “that’s a conservative estimate,” says Martin Lightfoot.

Fast growing counties and minority communities need representation; a delay could adversely affect their chances of being included in the 2020 Census, getting critical federal dollars and having a voice on the national stage.

“The count still matters for Texas,” she added.

What Texans are doing about it

Census champions are learning to “pivot and rethink,” as traditional activities and strategies are being redesigned and redeployed to beat restrictions caused by the pandemic, say experts on the EMS panel.

Increasingly, the message to stand up and be counted is being entrusted to ‘trusted messengers”  embedded in communities across the country.

For example, the Census Bureau is delegating messaging to local media and nonprofit organizations, especially ethnic media outlets serving minority audiences.  Media consumption is up and people across these communities are getting their news and looking for answers from media sources they trust.

In a fitting example, India Currents was selected by The United Way of California to disseminate culturally sensitive census messages to its Indian American audience. The hope is to reach the traditionally undercounted – for example, households with seniors, children or undocumented residents – using non-traditional methods to achieve a fair and accurate count.

A ‘Pivot and Change‘ strategy

In Texas, nonprofit organizations are innovating and mobilizing to get out the count. The Census Bureau’s announcements about delays have caused confusion in some communities, so it’s critical to reinforce the message that the ‘Census is still on’ says community organizer Chris Valdez of Houston in Action.

In some cases, people in rural areas do not have mail delivered, and as the census does not deliver to PO boxes, many of them have not received the census forms or even heard a census message.

New response efforts have dramatically altered the way that message is being delivered. The response is being built around a multi-pronged digital effort involving social media, radio and TV, and empowering local leaders and trusted messengers – faith-based institutions and school districts to get the message out.

New outreach campaigns now feature ‘virtual activations’ like webinars and online Instagram Live parties to engage people nationally, attract and educate the younger generation and draw their parents in. In one such live event, the social justice organization Muslim Women For held a free Census Party on Instagram Live with ‘DJ Kiran and the Justice for Muslims Collective’ to “fill out census questionnaires in real time, answer your questions and jam out.”

The NCBCP Unity Diaspora Coalition which includes partners like The National Urban League organized a social media initiative called Count Me Black! to engage Black communities to focus on being counted in the 2020 decennial.

Weekly podcasts that highlight the importance of the census and signage at grocery stores are now integral elements of the campaign effort.

Among minority groups like MENA where limited English puts people at a disadvantage, communication about the census is being channeled through social media (texts and WhatsApp groups), and ethnic media outlets.

In-language phone banking efforts are helping seniors, especially those without internet access, to complete the form.  Schools are delivering census information with their school lunches.

Mosques and Islamic centers are holding events, once a week online programs and other ethnic media broadcasts, as well as food banks, to promote the census.

Civic engagement efforts include a get out the count campaign competition with a $1000 prize.

Nabila Mansoor of Empowering Communities Initiative  says that around 1.7 Asian Americans  have been undercounted for decades putting families, communities and neighborhoods at a disadvantage.

Empowering minority communities to participate  in the census  is a challenge that must be met,  or Texans will be living the consequences of an undercount.

The old school census outreach program has created a digital divide between people who enjoy seamless broadband connections and disadvantaged people in communities of color who have limited or no Internet access.

The new style census communication outreach is narrowing that gap .

Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents.

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


Image credit: Glen Carrie on Unsplash