2020 Census Undercounted Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans: NPR

A Census Bureau employee waits to gather information from people at a 2020 Census promotional event in New York City.

Brendan McDermid/Reuters


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Brendan McDermid/Reuters


A Census Bureau employee waits to gather information from people at a 2020 Census promotional event in New York City.

Brendan McDermid/Reuters

The 2020 census continued a long-standing trend of undercounting blacks, Latinos and Native Americans, while overcounting people who identified as white and non-Hispanic, according to estimates in a report released Thursday by the US Census Bureau.

Latinos – with a net undercount rate of 4.99% – were excluded from the 2020 census at more than three times the rate from a decade earlier.

Among Native Americans living on reservations (5.64%) and Blacks (3.30%), net undercount rates were numerically higher but not statistically different from 2010 rates.

People identified as white and non-Hispanic were overcounted at a net rate of 1.64%, nearly double the rate in 2010. Asian Americans were also overcounted (2.62%). The bureau said based on its estimates, it is unclear how much of the 2020 tally counted Pacific Islanders.

The long-awaited results come from a follow-up survey conducted by the bureau to measure the accuracy of the latest count of people living in the United States, which is used to redistribute political representation and federal funding across the country for the 10 coming years.

Other estimates released Thursday by the bureau found that the most recent census followed another long-term trend of undercounting young children under age 5.

Interference from the COVID administration and Trump harms the accuracy of the count

While the bureau’s stated goal is to “count everyone once, only once, and in the right place”, counting errors have occurred with every census. Some people are counted more than once at different addresses, leading to overcounts, while missing US residents in the census fuel undercounts.

Disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic and interference from the administration of former President Donald Trump have raised alarms about the heightened risk that whole swaths of the country’s population will be counted once a decade. COVID-19 has also caused multiple delays in the bureau’s post-census survey which is used to determine the accuracy of census results and inform planning for the next national count in 2030.

At the press conference announcing the results of the follow-up survey, Census Bureau Director Robert Santos — who, before becoming the agency’s chief, told Bloomberg CityLab he believed the census was “sabotaged” under the Trump administration to produce results that benefit Republicans – acknowledged “an unprecedented set of challenges” facing the office over the past two years.

“Many of you, myself included, have expressed your concerns. How could anyone not be concerned? These findings will end some of those concerns and leave others for further exploration. “Santos, a Biden administration appointee, said at the press conference announcing the results of the follow-up investigation.

The office has previously said it believes the census results are “suitable for use” to reallocate each state’s share of Congressional seats and Electoral College votes, as well as redraw electoral districts.

Census numbers are also used to guide the distribution of approximately $1.5 trillion each year in federal funds to communities for health care, education, transportation and other public services. Some tribal, state and local officials are considering ways to challenge the results for potential corrections that would factor into future funding decisions.

The report the bureau released on Thursday provided only a national-level snapshot of the count’s accuracy, and the agency said it plans to release state-level metrics this summer.

“We have a lot more reports to check, review and review,” Timothy Kennel, deputy division chief for statistical methods, said in a webinar ahead of Thursday’s release.

Civil rights groups seek remedies

Yet these nationwide measures have resurfaced among civil rights organizations and other census watchers who have warned for years of the risk of racial gaps in census counts leading to an inequitable distribution. political power and federal money.

In response to the bureau’s report that American Indians and Native Americans living on reservations continued to have the highest rate of net undercount among racial and ethnic groups, Fawn Sharp, President of the National Indian Congress of America, said the results “confirm our worst fears.” “

“Every undervalued household and individual in our communities means a loss of funding and resources that we desperately need to address the significant disparities we face,” added Sharp, who is also Vice President of the Quinault Indian Nation. in Taholah, Wash., in a statement. .

Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, which led a federal lawsuit in 2020 to try to stop Trump officials from cutting counting efforts, said lawyers for the group are considering go back to court to try to get a remedy.

“We’ve talked about voter suppression. Now we’re seeing population suppression,” Morial said on a call with reporters. “And when you tie them together, that’s the poisonous tree of seeking to diminish the distribution of power in this nation on a fair and equitable basis.”

Other longtime census watchers see this moment as a chance to reimagine what the next count might look like in 2030.

Arturo Vargas, CEO of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, said the next census should be conducted in a “much more modern and efficient manner” to address the persistent undercount of Latinos and other people of color.

“This whole idea of ​​creating a master address file and sending everyone an invitation to participate and hoping they respond, and if they don’t you’re going to knock on their door, it’s is an outdated way now of counting the U.S. population. We need a better way. I don’t have the answer to what that better way is, but I want to work with the Census Bureau to figure it out,” said Vargas added.

In addition to looking ahead to the next decade, Vargas noted a more immediate concern: how to improve the annual population estimates the bureau produces using 2020 census data and which states and local communities rely on to get their share of federal funding.

Asked by NPR whether there are plans to factor the new over and undercount rates into those estimates, Karen Battle, chief of the bureau’s population division, replied that the agency is “taking action in this direction”.

“But we have to do research to understand whether or not we can do it,” Battle said.

Nohemi M. Moore