2020 census undercount second highest since 1950 – Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, pay highest price

By Khalil Abdallah | Trice EdneyWire

Special for Ethnic Media Services’ Trice Edney News Wire.

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – The U.S. Census Bureau’s recently announced undercount of African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans in the 2020 census came as no surprise to leaders of civil rights organizations who have fought with the Trump administration for an accurate demographic assessment of their communities. .

The Census Bureau estimated the undercount of black Americans at 3.3%, down from 2% in 2010. “How can you miss five million blacks and maybe an equal number of Latinos? asked Marc Morial immediately after the March 10 release of “National Census Coverage Estimates for People in the United States by Demographic Characteristics.”

Morial, president of the National Urban League, delivered a terse and scathing denunciation of what he called a census crippled by political interference from the Trump administration.

“I want to express, in the strongest possible terms, our outrage, our disappointment,” he said, referring to the undercount estimates, while decrying the “incalculable” impact they will have on the distortion of what should have given a fair and equitable formula for the distribution of federal dollars to states, cities and communities in need.

Jeri Green, Executive Director, Black Census Roundtable, cited the billions of dollars to be allocated to states from the passage in 2021 of the sweeping Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. These revenues will fund bridge repairs, surface transportation improvements and projects for Native American communities. These are just some of the priorities of a long list of initiatives that, in part, will be selected by census data.

Even without the Infrastructure Act, an estimated $1.5 trillion in federal revenue helps states and cities fund programs that Americans rely on, even take for granted. “These national numbers,” Green said of the census, “don’t help the mayor of Detroit who felt millions of people were underestimated. These national numbers don’t tell us what happened in New York, in the communities in New York where we saw large black immigrant populations that were missed in Queens and the Bronx.

As in previous censuses, non-Hispanic whites were overcounted in the 2020 census and, to some observers’ surprise, Asian Americans were also overcounted. “How can this happen?” Green asked, noting that, historically, “in the U.S. Census, black males are understated at all ages, from cradle to grave.” The estimated undercount of the black population in the 2020 census is 3.3%.

Kelly Percival, senior democracy program attorney at the Brennan Center, said, “This is only the second time since 1950 that a census has been less accurate than the last.” She explained that the 1990 census was more problematic than the 1980 census, but that the census generally improves its methodologies and enumeration strategies from one census to the next. “But this 2020 census had a higher undercount than the 2010 census; it’s discouraging.

Agreeing with Green, Percival said: “The numbers show that the 20020 census suffered from the same serious problem as previous censuses, and it fails to count people of color correctly. Take the Hispanic population, which saw a huge increase in its undercount rate starting in 2010. The undercount rate in 2010 was 1.54%, but in 2020 it was nearly 5%, almost triple.

The Native American population, on reservations, suffered the greatest undercount, 5.6%. This undercount was attributed to enumerators’ time and difficulty in reaching remote rural communities. Physical isolation is often compounded by the lack of access to internet, broadband or satellite technologies that would have enabled the remote filing of census response forms.

Census officials at the March 10 press conference described the debilitating challenges their enumerators faced due to the Covid-19 outbreak, which occurred just as the census was due to begin. Yet even as Morial, Green and other critics — including Percival — acknowledged this reality, they point out that the Trump administration pursued and won a Supreme Court decision to restrict the census process. Originally, precisely because of the devastation caused by Covid-19, the administration had agreed to extend the deadline for data collection.

Percival and Green argue that these enumerators could have made a difference in the count, as they needed to be deployed to check and double-check hard-to-count communities.. “Even two weeks could have made a significant difference in the count,” Percival said.

For the Latino community, the Trump administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the census form undoubtedly dampened response rates, even though the Supreme Court ultimately ruled against including it. of the question. Arturo Vargas, CEO of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, was disappointed with the census results and said he had never seen such a gross undercount of the Latino community in his over 30 years of fair census advocacy.

Morial described the crippling impacts of undercounts as “incalculable,” noting that the number of congressional seats each state receives is determined by its population. With only 435 total seats in the House available by law, the redistribution of seats between states is calculated by population determined by the results of each decennial census.

These numbers have been “prepared for 10 years,” Morial said. Thus, a community harmed by an undercount is a community that inherits a biased redistricting process and, therefore, reduced electoral representation. This decrease in the possibility of electing candidates is a violation of the promise of the constitution, Morial added.

There are few avenues for challenging the census results. There could be a legal remedy through the courts or a legislative resolution through an act of Congress. An existing administrative remedy could be obtained through the Census Bureau’s Counting Issues Resolution Program.

However, if a city decided to do a population recount, as an option, Green said, “They would have to bear the cost of that undertaking.”

At least one US city is already considering this option, calculating that the potential economic and financial benefits are worth the expense.

Percival pointed out that because the census is a snapshot of April 1 – the precise date of the count – there are restrictions on the validity of the results of a recount. Tenants of new housing built after this date, for example, could not be included in a dispute.

Morial said he would consult with lawyers and legal advisers to determine next steps. Noting that there is a constitutional obligation to count everyone present in the United States, Morial will not only lobby the Biden administration, but Congress as well. Congress writes the laws under which the Census Bureau operates under the Department of Commerce.

“Where there is an evil of this magnitude,” Morial said, “if we are a just and equitable nation, there must be a remedy.”

Nohemi M. Moore