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How census undercount affects communities

2020 Census Detroit
Posted at 3:08 PM, Jul 05, 2022

The 2020 Census suffered from a significant undercount of Latinos and other racial and ethnic minorities. The undercount of Latinos was 4.99%, three times the 1.54% undercount in 2010, a statistically significant difference.

“At the end of the day, we believe there were a lot of people who didn’t get counted for a variety of reasons,” said Dr. Laura Murillo, CEO of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. 

In 2018, she wrote a warning to and about her community.  Despite the massive growth of the Hispanic population in Texas and across America, she said, “It is likely that they will be minimized in the upcoming 2020 Census.”  That’s exactly what’s happened. 

This year the U.S. Census Bureau released results that found its own 2020 Census had vastly undercounted various minority populations.  Asian Americans and white Americans were overcounted, but Native Americans were undercounted by 1% and Black Americans were undercounted by 3%.

The Census decides how many representatives each state gets in the U.S. House. It also decides federal funding.

The research group ChildTrends estimated that 37 states flat-out missed out on money specifically related to children, like Medicaid and the CHIP program.

Colorado lost $48 million, Arizona is out $70 million, and Florida could have received an extra $138 million. Texas lost out on the most money at $338 million.

“The truth is that there are many needs, and more and more people are visiting our food banks,” Dr. Murillo said. “They go to community centers, and they go to nonprofits.” 

The Census didn’t just miscount by race. It miscounted by states. Eight states, like Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Utah, were overcounted. Six states, like Florida, Tennessee, and Arkansas were significantly undercounted. This didn’t happen in a past census.

Murillo says, in her community, it’s about trust and concerns for a while that their citizenship would be questioned. 

“In one home, you might have someone who was born here, children who are born here, a grandmother who was here undocumented. The concern by some was if we complete this, it might jeopardize the status of our grandmother, or our aunt, or someone in the family,” Dr. Murillo said.

 The next census is eight years away. For those on the ground, that’s just enough time to convince as many people as possible that there’s power in being counted. 

“This is not a one-message scenario. It needs to be ongoing that people just continue to hear what it means and especially what it means to them and their families,” Dr. Murillo said. “It means more representation. It means better schools. It means better streets. More libraries. More hospitals. It means that you matter.”