public-policy newsletter

Ensuring an Accurate 2020 Census

April 16, 2018

The organizations that comprise the human service sector share a common mission: to help everyone reach their full potential and contribute to their communities in meaningful ways. Over 300 programs that help lay the foundation for strong communities rely on accurate census data for funding. An inaccurate census count threatens well-being by compromising funding for federal programs, including many critical human services. A precise census also safeguards fair representation. The census determines how residents are represented in federal, state, and local legislative bodies by apportioning congressional seats, Electoral College votes, and drawing state and local legislative districts. An inaccurate census leads to disproportionate constituent representation at all levels of government.

Citizenship Status

On March 26, the Administration announced that the 2020 Census will ask every household in the country to record which members of their family are US citizens, a question that hasn’t been included on the census since 1950. Civil rights groups, experts who advise the Census Bureau, and former Census Bureau directors believe that the question will jeopardize an accurate head count because many non-citizens will fear that the government will use their status in harmful ways. The addition of the citizenship question incited calls for legal challenges, legislation, and requests for multiplecongressional hearings on the issue. Additionally, six former Census Bureau directors have publicly opposed the untested citizenship question on the grounds that, traditionally, there is a multi-year process to refine and thoroughly test all new questions.


Adequate Funding


The decennial census is a massive effort to count all residents living in the United States. To conduct the testing and research required to ensure the accuracy of such a tremendous undertaking, the Census Bureau must be sufficiently funded. Although the census received more money than what was expected in the 2018 omnibus spending bill, that amount is still not enough to conduct a fair and accurate survey.


LGBTQ+ Inclusion


The 2020 Census will have a question asking couples whether they are in a same-sex relationship or an opposite-sex relationship. This thoughtful inclusion of LGBTQ+ couples is admirable. However, it still leaves room for undercounting single members of the LGBTQ+ community. The census has also been criticized because there is currently no option to distinguish transgender, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, and non-binary respondents.
The Census Bureau is seeking partners to promote the census and ensure a complete and accurate count in 2020. For more information, visit the new Census Partnerships website.