The U.S. census is underway. At about the halfway point now, there are concerns. Are minority communities responding? Will they be counted appropriately in the national survey? If minorities fall behind in census response, they may miss out on important government services and representation that their communities need.
Often, minority populations are among the least wealthy in the nation. They may not regularly receive news through channels that more financially stable residents do—such as cable television and internet. Therefore, they may not realize the importance of participating in the once-per-decade U.S. census.
Minority advocate groups attempted outreach efforts to keep those communities informed. But the pandemic upended their plans. Door-to-door contacts almost ceased under “stay at home” and “shelter in place” orders. Now the National Urban League and the associated NALEO Educational Fund are sounding the alarm. They say that communities with concentrations of black and Hispanic residents have been trailing the rest of the nation in answering the census questionnaire.
The census occurs only once every 10 years. But that all-resident survey is important. It helps determine where $1.5 trillion in federal funding goes. It also decides how many congressional seats each state will get to represent its population in the federal government.
Arturo Vargas is CEO of NALEO Educational Fund. He says the pandemic is disproportionately affecting the Latino population. With immediate concerns about health and safety, Latinos aren’t worrying much about whether they received a paper census document in the mail.
“We have to figure out how we break through the real noise affecting their daily lives to do something as ordinary as going through the mail and filling out their forms,” Arturo says.
The government gives three options for completing the survey: mail, phone, or online. But even so, many U.S. residents still haven’t responded. The overall national response rate was 61.5% this week. States with large concentrations of Hispanics were lagging behind that number. Those include Arizona, Florida, New Mexico, New York, and Texas. An analysis just a couple of weeks ago by the Center for Urban Research at the City University of New York showed that neighborhoods with concentrations of black residents were responding at only a 51% rate: barely more than half.
The National Urban League worries that the census will miss many immigrants, black people in rural communities, formerly incarcerated men and women, and preschool-aged children.
Counting every citizen and resident is important, because people are important. God told Abraham that He would give him descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. (Genesis 15:5) Yet He also promises that He knows every detail about us. (Psalm 139:16) God does not lose track of His people. A healthy nation likewise keeps track.
(Posters encourage participation in the 2020 Census in Seattle. AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)