Why you should care about Census 2020

February 6, 2020

Photo: Getty Images

Every decade since the year 1790, our country comes together to participate in the census with one goal: to obtain an accurate count of every person, of all ages, residing within the United States. The census form is sent to every household and takes only a few minutes to fill out. The next decennial census will occur in April 2020.

What does this have to do with your child’s health and well-being?

Census data not only decide how many seats each state has in the federal House of Representatives, it also helps the federal government know where to direct billions of dollars for programs that help children. These programs include Medicaid; the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); Women, Infants and Children (WIC); Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Special Education Grants (IDEA); Head Start; Foster Care; Section 8 Housing; the National Lunch Program; and the Child Care and Development Fund (1,2).

If there is an undercount in the upcoming census, Texas could lose billions of dollars in federal funding for these programs.

Harris County alone could stand to lose $54 million per year if just 1% of its residents are undercounted! (2,3) 

These are Texans’ tax dollars we could potentially leave on the table – money that would otherwise go into our neighborhoods, schools, businesses and households.

About a quarter, or 1 in 4, Texans live in difficult-to-count neighborhoods (4). Rural neighborhoods, people with complex living situations, renters, people of color, and non-English-speaking households are commonly undercounted (3,5). Although undercounting can potentially occur in any community and in any age group, children younger than 5 years old were the most undercounted in the last census (6). As a result of this undercount, Texas lost over $100 million (or over $1,000 per child) per year in the last 10 years (5,7). Children are typically undercounted due to confusion over whether they should be listed on the census form or because they live in complex living situations or split time between households (7,8).

Here is what you need to know  about Census 2020:

Who should be counted?

Everyone living in a household, even temporarily (on or before April 1, 2020), should be counted regardless of age or citizenship status. Remember, babies count too! A newborn should be counted if he or she was born on or before April 1, 2020. If a child splits time between households, they should be counted in the household where they spend the most time.

What does the Census Bureau do with the information?

The Census Bureau is part of the Department of Commerce and uses census information to know how to divide money between states and programs, including programs for kids. The census form is completely private. The Census Bureau removes identification of families and individuals, and it is illegal for the Census Bureau to share your information with any other person or part of the government, including law enforcement, immigration agencies or landlords. The census does not ask for anyone’s social security number or citizenship status (7,9).

How do I fill out the 2020 census?

This year will be the first time the census will have an option to respond online, but you can also respond via mail or by phone. Census paper forms are available in English and Spanish. Online and phone forms are available in additional languages. Census forms are mailed in March, with reminder letters sent in April if a household has not yet completed it (10).

How can I get involved?

You can spread the word in your community by talking to friends and family about the importance of the census for all children. Because this is the first time the census will have an online option, there are fewer field staff members, making it extra important for everyone to get the word out! (3,11)


Learn more about the census and how to get involved below!

To get involved on the local Houston / Harris County level, visit:

https://www.harrishoustoncounts.com/

To join a Complete Count Subcommittee, visit:

http://houstoninaction.org/census/

To get involved on the state level, visit:

http://www.texascounts.org

For more information on counting children in the upcoming census, visit:

https://countallkids.org/

Resources:

  1. https://2020census.gov/en/what-is-2020-census.html
  2. https://gwipp.gwu.edu/sites/g/files/zaxdzs2181/f/downloads/GWIPP%20Reamer%20Fiscal%20Impacts%20of%20Census%20Undercount%20on%20FMAP-based%20Programs%2003-19-18.pdf
  3. https://www.januaryadvisors.com/why-houston-will-be-hard-to-count-in-census-2020/
  4. https://www.censushardtocountmaps2020.us/
  5. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5728d34462cd94b84dc567ed/t/5d518f3f05255900014f2987/1565626177073/2019-CensusFactsheet-Young-Child-Undercount.pdf
  6. https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/11/big-push-to-count-every-newborn-young-child-2020-census.html
  7. https://countallkids.org/money-lost-from-young-child-undercount/
  8. https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/newsroom/press-kits/2018/counting-young-children-in-2020-census.pdf
  9. https://www.census.gov/
  10. https://2020census.gov/en/important-dates.html
  11. https://www.shfcenter.org/assets/SJVHF/SJVCRP_Survey_Findings_Executive_Summary_011819.pdf

Post by:

Dr. Masciale, Marina Angelica