Last week the Urban Institute released an analysis of what they see as a census undercount with certain states suffering from that undercount. One potential impact of the 2020 pandemic was the impact on the 2020 Census. According to the analysis the undercount was not as severe as expected, but there were problems as far as who was undercounted and the overcounted varied.
The report found that there likely was an overall 0.5 percent net undercount of the US population. The varied undercount meant that the true total populations of some states, for example, Mississippi and Texas were undercounted by 1.3 and 1.28 percent while Minnesota’s population was net overcounted by 0.76 percent. That will mean that in the next decade, such differences matter for these states. Mississippi and Texas residents will receive less of federal funding for infrastructure, health care, and children’s programs. In contrast, Minnesota residents will receive more.
Researchers found that Texas legislators did not make efforts to encourage communities to fill out the census, hence the miscount. Contrastingly, California spent $187 million to motivate individuals to fill out the Census. Because of the allocation of resources towards Census collecting, California had less miscount issues throughout the state. The undercounts result in decreased federal funding for Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicare, highway planning and construction, housing vouchers, and Head Start.
The analysis also indicates that those populations that are hardest to count in recent decennial censuses were again likely undercounted in the 2020 Census. For each hardest-to-count group, equity issues arise with the count’s fairness, how resources will be distributed, and who will miss out on their fair share of political representation and funding. According to the Urban Institute
Black and Hispanic/Latinx people had a net undercount of more than 2.45 and 2.17 percent, respectively, in our simulated 2020 Census. Young children, or those younger than age 5, were likely net undercounted by 4.86 percent. Nationwide, renters were likely undercounted by 2.13 percent overall. Households with a noncitizen present were likely undercounted by 3.36 percent overall.
The findings show how miscounts can impact how the government allocates resources. Although changing the outcome of the 2020 Census is not an option, addressing these inaccuracies for the future can ensure the continuation of much needed services. The Urban Institute highlights several actions that can improve the Census, including implementing well-researched operational changes, encouraging states and cities to promote the importance of the Census, and ensuring strong funding in early years of the decade.