NATIONAL NEWS

Census Takers Fall Short Of Target Goal In Areas Of US

Oct 24, 2020, 10:03 AM
FILE: The U.S. Census logo appears on census materials received in the mail with an invitation to f...
FILE: The U.S. Census logo appears on census materials received in the mail with an invitation to fill out census information online on March 19, 2020 in San Anselmo, California. (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
(Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(AP) – From tribal lands in Arizona and New Mexico to storm-battered Louisiana, census workers who go door to door were unable to reach all the households they needed for a complete tally of the U.S. population, a count that ended abruptly last week after a Supreme Court ruling.

Community activists, statisticians and civil rights groups say racial and ethnic minorities are historically undercounted, and shortcomings in the 2020 census could set the course of life in their communities for years to come.

The count determines the number of congressional seats each state gets, where roads and bridges are built, how schools and health care facilities are funded, and how $1.5 trillion in federal resources are allocated annually.

“An undercount in our community means schools are overcrowded, hospitals are overcrowded, roads are congested,” said John Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

The census ended last week after the Supreme Court sided with President Donald Trump’s administration and suspended a lower court order allowing the head count to continue through Oct. 31.

The U.S. Census Bureau says that overall, it reached more than 99.9% of the nation’s households, but in a nation of 330 million people, the remaining .1% represents hundreds of thousands of uncounted residents. And in small cities, even handfuls of undercounted residents can make a big difference in the resources the communities receive and the power they wield.

Also, a high percentage of households reached does not necessarily translate to an accurate count: The data’s quality depends on how it was obtained. The most accurate information comes from people who “self-respond” to the census questionnaire online, by phone or mail. Census officials say 67% of the people counted in the 2020 census responded that way.

In any case, census takers, who go door to door, fell short of reaching all the households that hadn’t filled out the census form in many pockets of the country.

In large parts of Louisiana, which was battered by two hurricanes, census takers didn’t even hit 94% of the households they needed to reach. In Window Rock, the capital of the Navajo Nation on the Arizona-New Mexico border that was ravaged by COVID-19, census takers only reached 98.9%.

According to the Census Bureau, census takers reached 99.9% of the households they needed to contact in most of the 248 census areas the bureau designated across the U.S. They fell short of 99.9% in Quincy, Massachusetts; New Haven, Connecticut; Asheville, North Carolina; Jackson, Mississippi; Providence, Rhode Island, and Manhattan, where neighborhoods emptied out in the spring because of the coronavirus.

Rhode Island is one of about 10 states projected to lose a congressional seat, based on anticipated state population figures in the 2020 census. It could take as few as 30,000 overlooked people for the nation’s physically smallest state to revert back to having a single House district, said John Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, a nonprofit watchdog.

The early conclusion of the census “is really going to stymie our efforts, not only to maintain that second district but also to have fair representation in our state legislature,” Marion said.

Jackson, Mississippi, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba blamed the coronavirus, which curtailed in-person outreach efforts that could have made a difference in hard-to-count neighborhoods. The mayor isn’t sure having an extra two weeks would have made a huge difference, but he says not having a complete count is significant: Jackson loses $1,000 each year for every person not counted.

“All of this has long-term implications for city planning, for how we address our needs, and for ensuring that we are fairly represented in the state house and in Congress,” Lumumba said.

There are also concerns about the quality of the data obtained. The second-most accurate information after self-responses comes from household members being interviewed by census takers. When census takers can’t reach someone at home, they turn to less-accurate information from neighbors, landlords and administrative records, the latter of which have been in widespread use for the first time this year. Information was obtained by these methods for almost 40% of the census takers’ caseload, according to the Census Bureau.

“Do not be fooled by the Census Bureau’s 99% myth. If there was ever fake news, this is it,” said Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, one of the civil rights groups that challenged the Trump administration’s census schedule in court.

Census Bureau director Steven Dillingham said Monday that a first look at the data collection operation indicates “an extremely successful execution.” He noted that the 67% self-response rate this year was higher than the 66.5% reached during the 2010 census.

How much time the Census Bureau has to crunch the numbers is still being fought in courts and in Congress. Civil rights groups and others are pushing Congress to extend the bureau’s deadline for turning in apportionment numbers for congressional seats from Dec. 31 to the end of next April.

The Trump administration said the Census Bureau needed to end the count early to meet the Dec. 31 deadline. But top officials at the Census Bureau said as recently as July that it would still be impossible to process all of the data by the end of the year. They’ve since changed their tune, and on Wednesday said in a conference call with the news media that the deadline can be met by working around the clock and with technological advances in computer processing.

In areas that were not counted, Census Bureau officials said they will use a statistical technique called imputation, which uses the characteristics and size of neighboring households to fill in the gaps of homes with missing data.

Groups suing the administration over the timetables said the deadline for turning in apportionment numbers was moved up to accommodate an order from Trump to exclude people in the U.S. illegally from the numbers used to divvy up congressional seats among the states. Sticking to a Dec. 31 deadline ensures that data processing remains under the administration’s control, regardless of who wins the presidential election.

A panel of federal judges in New York ruled that Trump’s order was unlawful, but the administration has appealed to the Supreme Court. A second panel of federal judges in California on Thursday ruled that the order was also unconstitutional, and the Trump administration on Friday said it planned to appeal.

“This census isn’t over,” Morial said. “We will continue to fight in the courts, Congress and the court of public opinion.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

FILE: Pro-Trump supporters storm the US Capitol following a rally with President Donald Trump on Ja...
Associated Press

Judges keeping Capitol riot trials in DC amid bias claims

More Capitol riot defendants are pushing to get their trials moved out of Washington, D.C. The defendants claim they can't get a fair trial before unbiased jurors in Washington.
7 hours ago
Hours after gunfire interrupted the Highland Park, Illinois, July Fourth parade, killing six people...
Dakin Andone, Steve Almasy and Curt Devine, CNN

What we know about the Highland Park shooting suspect

Robert "Bobby" E. Crimo III, 21, faces seven charges of first-degree murder in connection with the shooting in Highland Park, Illinois.
1 day ago
FILE IMAGE - Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury durring pregame warmups at Footprint Center...
DOUG FEINBERG, AP Basketball Writer

White House: Biden has read Griner letter pleading for help

Brittney Griner’s appeal to President Joe Biden in a handwritten letter continued to garner reaction Tuesday after the WNBA All-Star acknowledged she feared never returning home and asked Biden not “forget about me and the other American Detainees.”
1 day ago
HIGHLAND PARK, IL - JULY 05: Law enforcement work the scene of a shooting at a Fourth of July parad...
Amir Vera, Jason Hanna, Adrienne Broaddus and Helen Regan, CNN

Highland Park parade shooting suspect charged with 7 counts of murder, state’s attorney says

The suspect in Monday's mass shooting at a July 4th parade in Highland Park, Illinois, that left seven dead and injured more than two dozen has been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder.
1 day ago
An Atlanta-area special grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump's attempts to overtu...
Sara Murray and Jason Morris, CNN

Graham, Giuliani, Eastman and other Trump advisers subpoenaed in Georgia election probe

An Atlanta-area special grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia has subpoenaed a handful of key Trump allies, including his former attorney and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham
1 day ago
R&B singer R. Kelly (L) arrives at the Cook County courthouse where jury selection is scheduled to ...
Associated Press

In reversal, prosecutors say R. Kelly off suicide watch

Prosecutors say R. Kelly is no longer on suicide watch following the jailed R&B singer's sentencing in a federal sex abuse case.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Census Takers Fall Short Of Target Goal In Areas Of US