Making Sense of the 2020 Census Fiasco
If you were contacted incessantly by the U.S. census to complete your census recently, you are not alone. This will be one of the most expensive and the most inaccurate census ever. Essentially, the pandemic slowed the process down and the president speeded it up in early August by shortening the deadline by nearly a month to September 30th.
This is the biggest survey in the world, and there
is only one chance every 10 years to get it right.
Cutting the data collection short slashed a full month from the typical two-plus months allotted to follow up with households that did not respond. And it is also shortening the cleanup period that follows, during which the bureau checks its information for accuracy and removes duplicate counts. That process normally takes five months; this year, the bureau will have only three.
Throw in a continued effort by the administration to come up with a separate count of undocumented immigrants that could be used to exclude them from the numbers used for redistricting, as well as the first time the census is integrating online-collected data into the in-person count, and you can begin to see the predicament.
Why does it matter? Aside from the official reason for the census data, which is apportioning House seats and drawing legislative districts, the data provides the statistical basis for many governmental funding decisions for the next decade. Each year, roughly $1.5 trillion in federal funds get redistributed according to census data. With undercounted populations disproportionately made up of Black Americans, Latinos, lower-income households, immigrants, and young people, an undercount would mean not only less political representation for those groups, but also fewer resources going to those communities.
So, what is the official reason for cutting the census counting process short?
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