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A Complete Census Count Is Complicated, But Crucial. Why Aren't More Texans Responding?

Photo by Mike Chai from Pexels CC0: https://bit.ly/32NYxoE
Photo by Mike Chai from Pexels CC0: https://bit.ly/32NYxoE

On top of everything else happening in 2020, it's also the year of the decennial census, when the government tries to collect basic information about every person living in the United States to make data-informed decisions for the future.

The official count determines the number of Congressional representatives for each state and their allocation of federal funds, including money for hospitals and health care programs like Medicaid — especially important given the pandemic.

Research shows an undercount of just 1% of Texas' population could result in a $300 million annual loss for the next decade.

There are numerous obstacles in the way of getting a complete and accurate count in Texas. An estimated 25% of the state's residents — more than 6 million people — live in "hard-to-count" areas.

The Census Bureau currently anticipates an undercount of at least 1.49% in 2020, meaning about 437,000 Texans could slip through the cracks. As of mid-July, the state's response rate was just over 57%.

The Bureau intended to unveil strategies in 2020 to improve efficiency, accuracy and response rates, but those tests were canceled due to inadequate funding.

The COVID-19 outbreak, a lack of investment at the state level, politicization of the process and general distrust of the government have also complicated complete count efforts.

How is the Census Bureau adapting community outreach efforts in response to these obstacles? How responsive have Bexar County residents been to the census so far?

Who would be most affected by a population undercount? How could a fair and accurate census be used to dismantle systemic inequities and improve the status quo in communities of color?

How can this data be used to better understand family histories and how the country's demographics are evolving? Could census delays affect redistricting in Texas?

What information is requested from households and what's the easiest way to self-respond in 2020?

Guests:

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call  833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org  or tweet @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Monday, July 27.

Kathleen Creedon can be reached at kathleen@tpr.org or on Twitter at @Kath_Creedon
Kim Johnson is the producer for Texas Public Radio’s live, call-in show The Source. She is a Trinity University alum with bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a Master of Arts Degree from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.