Challenges to US Census results begin |
Detroit mayor believes tens of thousands of majority-black city residents missed out on 2020 census. Somerton, Ariz., leaders are in disbelief, Census Bureau says they lost residents during a decade when the predominantly Hispanic community grew enough to warrant a new high school.
And college towns across the United States believe they have been underestimated as students have fled campuses closed by the coronavirus.
The time has come for communities with an ox to know how they were counted in the 2020 census.
At the start of the new year, the US Census Bureau began accepting challenges from states, counties, cities and tribal nations regarding one of the most difficult counts in recent memory, due to the pandemic, the political interference from the Trump administration, hurricanes and wildfires. .
The scope of challenges through the Count Question Resolution program is narrow, and few local governments had their numbers changed after the 2010 census. But the office made adjustments when past errors were revealed.
Unprecedented hurdles in 2020 may increase the need for adjustments this time around. Many leaders worry that inaccurate numbers will cost their jurisdictions their share of the $1.5 trillion the federal government hands out each year based on census figures.
In addition to concerns about underappreciated racial and ethnic groups and students, some small towns believe a new privacy method the Census Bureau first used skewed their numbers. And officials in areas with large institutions like prisons or military barracks fear that the pandemic closures have left out many inmates or military personnel.
The census challenges will not change the number of congressional seats each state gets, or the numbers used to redraw political districts. These were released in August so that redrawing of district lines could be completed in time for the next election.
At this point, it’s hard to say how many governments will appeal through the program, which has been around since 1990. As of this week, the Census Bureau hadn’t released any applications. But states, cities, counties and tribal nations have until June 2023 to submit them.
State College, Pennsylvania, home to tens of thousands of Penn State University students, plans to file a challenge this winter because officials believe 4,000 to 5,800 people have been missed in the community of more than 40,500 residents, said Douglas Shontz, a borough spokesman.
“I’m not very optimistic, but we’ll explore every possible avenue to make sure everyone at State College has been counted correctly,” Shontz said in an email.
The lack of optimism may be due to the fact that the scope of the challenges is narrow – for mistakes made in recording boundaries or housing that were overlooked when processing the data. Over the years, only a few have succeeded. Revisions to population and housing totals were made to about 1% of the country’s 39,000 governments after the 2010 census.
“Unfortunately, the program hasn’t resulted in a lot of change, which might be disheartening, but this is a really big opportunity to get the numbers right,” said Cara Brumfield, senior policy analyst at the Georgetown Center on Poverty & Inequality.
When successful, challenges can have a significant impact. After the 2010 census, the city of Houston had its population revised from 2.09 million to 2.1 million. The addition of 812 previously uncounted residents triggered the addition of two seats on the city council.
Some demographers and local government officials say the program should challenge other issues, including enumerator or manager errors. Some say they need more leeway to use administrative records to show count errors.
“We propose that ‘human error’ in census field operations has a remedy, if such errors are detected and justified,” said Todd Graham, senior demographer for the Twin Cities Metropolitan Council, in public comments. on the program.
Citing concerns about missed residents in Detroit, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Thursday asked the Census Bureau for a briefing on whether communities might be able to challenge and correct their population counts if a undercount is documented.
Local governments will soon have another way to change the numbers. Starting next year, they can hire the Census Bureau to conduct a “special census” as part of a 2020 count overhaul, with residents footing the bill. They may also challenge population estimates that use census figures as the basis on which births, deaths and migration are added each year.
Given 2020’s problems counting people in dormitories, military barracks, nursing homes, and prisons during the pandemic, the Census Bureau proposed creating a separate program to accept the challenges of these “neighborhoods of group”. State, city and tribal officials have sounded the alarm over the counts because students were sent home from campuses, and jails and nursing homes were closed when these residents were meant to be counted.
Brumfield called the proposal “a step in the right direction”. Any changes will be incorporated into future population estimates and the bureau’s American Community Survey, as part of the proposal.
“I’m optimistic this will address many concerns,” Brumfield said. “It’s a good sign that the office has been listening.”