On April 1st, 2020 the twenty-fourth decennial census of the United States will begin a count of all persons residing in the U.S., including non-citizens. It is highly important that all populations and communities are included, as the results are used to ensure legislative representation and that government resources are distributed fairly. Census data are used to distribute federal resources to states, local governments, and families. The results are also used to guide community decision-making regarding schools, housing, healthcare services, business investment, and more. Populations that are accurately counted are more likely to receive their fair share of government assistance.
It is important that the 2020 Census fairly and accurately take into account the rapidly growing Latino community. Latinos are already the second largest ethno-racial population in the country, yet they are underserved because they are undercounted in the Census. Without having the proper representation and access to essential government resources, entire Latino communities will be negatively affected and overall health rates and access to school programs and health programs will decrease. Many of the benefits that underserved communities receive, whether they be food, educational benefits, or healthcare, may be lost if the Census does not accurately count all persons in hard-to-count communities.
Census data will be collected via the Internet (2020 marks the first year in which data will be collected this way), as well as by phone, by hard-copy questionnaire, and by census takers visiting homes. However, Latinos have historically been undercounted and, as a result, their communities do not receive the political representation or the resources they deserve. In 2020, undercounts of Latino communities may occur because they do not have access to the Internet, members fear having their personal information disclosed to immigration services, or they do not see themselves as members of the household in which they reside. As a result, they are considered “hard-to-count” populations. All efforts must be made to ensure that all Latinos are counted in the upcoming Census, even if they are not citizens. Otherwise, their communities will not receive the representation and funding from federal, state, and local governments that other communities receive.
Vulnerable members of Latino communities may be particularly hesitant to participate in the Census this year as a result of the Trump administration’s harsh immigration policies, as well as the attempt to add a citizenship question to the Census. Though a citizenship question will not appear on the Census, news of the administration’s push to include such a question may influence the willingness of certain immigrant populations to participate in the Census. It is crucial that immigrants understand the complete confidentiality of their answers to questions on the census questionnaire. Census information is required by law to be kept absolutely confidential by the Census Bureau. Individual information cannot be released to external agencies or organizations.
In order to achieve an accurate count of Latino communities in the 2020 Census, it is imperative that community leaders, funders, and civic leaders promote the inclusion and participation of Latinos in the Census by making Latino communities aware of the risks all of Michigan is likely to suffer if the Census undercounts them. Due to already limited funding of the Census Bureau, many activities that promote participation by undercounted populations in the census may be reduced, perpetuating the undercount of Latinos. It is crucial that all Latinos are counted in Census 2020. There are many helpful resources in Spanish on the websites of the Julian Samora Research Institute (JSRI; https://jsri.msu.edu/census-information-center) and the Inter-University Program for Latino Research (IUPLR; https://iuplr.org/). Engagement of the Latino community in Census 2020 will ensure that the Latino population is accurately represented in Congress and in federally funded programs.