The Justice Department proposed introducing a question on the 2020 Census asking if individuals are U.S. citizens. Given the current political climate and anti-immigrant rhetoric, it’s not surprising that such a question threatens the accuracy of the upcoming population count. If included, this will be the first time since 1950 a citizenship question is asked of all individuals.
Research from the Census Bureau itself says the question would likely lead to an undercount in already marginalized populations, particularly in immigrant communities who may be fearful of sharing such information with authorities.
Did you know that when the government conducts its Census count every 10 years, the nationwide data collection effort informs how political districts are drawn, and – crucial for human services – how $800 billion of federal funding are distributed to states and cities each year?
The top three reasons why we need a fair and accurate Census count:
- $800 billion of federal funding is on the line. Funds for federal human services programs are based on need. This includes programs like the National School Lunch Program, Section 8 housing assistance, and Head Start, all of which align with United Way of King County’s goal to make sure people have homes, students graduate and families are financially stable. To identify community needs, we need to know how many individuals live in our neighborhoods.
- Undercounting puts marginalized populations at risk. When marginalized populations are undercounted in the Census, those cities and neighborhoods don’t receive an equitable amount of federal funding and social services support, which then further marginalizes those populations.
- In Washington, we lost $4,800 per person not counted in the Census, according to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, and the effects of an inaccurate Census will trickle down for the next decade until the next Census is conducted. Decisions about funding, districting, health research, and more will be based on numbers that don’t fully capture community needs.
So how can we help ensure our neighbors and communities are equitably represented and supported?
Let the Commerce Department know how you feel about an accurate count! We can urge the Commerce Department to remove the citizenship question from the 2020 Census questionnaire. The Commerce Department has asked for public comments on the proposed citizenship question. Make sure your voice is heard by August 7. Here’s some additional guidance on comment language from The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
An accurate Census is the backbone of a democratic nation in which populations are fairly represented, but the proposed citizenship question threatens that foundation. A fair and accurate Census will help us create a more equitable society by making sure all of our neighbors count.