February 26, 2020 124 PM
The start of a new decade means it’s time for the U.S. Census. Every ten years, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a constitutionally mandated population count of our nation’s residents. Making sure that everyone is counted is of the utmost importance to the functioning of our democracy. These decennial population counts are used to determine how federal funds are distributed to states and how states are represented in our government.
We all want an accurate and complete count, but there are obstacles that we must overcome together to get there. In past census counts, South and West Texas have had some of the lowest self-response rates in the country. Approximately 25 percent of the current population of our state lives in “hard-to-count” areas, which is often the case for rural and minority communities.
Ahead of the 2020 Census, there has also been increased confusion and distrust surrounding the way that information gained from the census will be used. The Urban Institute estimates that nearly one-third of adults are extremely or very concerned about how their information will be used, and that number is over 40 percent among Hispanic adults and adults in immigrant families. Despite the Supreme Court’s decision not to allow a citizenship question to be on the census, many Americans are still fearful that the information they provide will be used to target them. Rest assured, there will be no citizenship question on the census. It is essential that we all participate.
The stakes are high, especially for the people of Texas. Since the 2010 Census, Texas has gained over 3.5 million residents and has the potential to acquire at least two additional seats in Congress after 2020 if everyone is counted. However, an undercount of even just 1% of the Texas population could result in the loss of $300 million in federal funding each year. Along with federal resources that go towards local schools, hospitals and roads, community organizations will also use census information to develop social service programs, community projects and childcare centers.
The benefits of participation are apparent, and the costs are nonexistent. There is no reason to fear participating in the census count. Completing the census questionnaire only takes a few minutes and can have a significant impact on the future of our state. You can fill it out over the phone or by mail, and for the first time ever you also have the option to fill it out online this year at www.census.gov. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, initial invitations to respond online and by phone will be delivered on or between March 12-20 by the U.S. Postal Service.
If we don’t get an accurate count this time around, we have to go 10 years before we can get it right. For many parts of Texas, that may be too long to wait.
This spring, securing our future through an accurate census count will be a collective effort. Remind your friends and neighbors to do their civic duty and participate. This is a chance for all of us to work together to help each other, our local communities, and the great state of Texas.