Texas ranks low when it comes to participation rates in the 2020 census – 40th in the nation. So far, only 57% of Texans have returned their census forms.
Demographer Lila Valencia from the Texas Demographic Center told Texas Standard on Thursday that could lead to an undercount of the population, which could mean a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding over the next 10 years.
“We have a higher share of what are called ‘hard to count’ populations,” Valencia told host David Brown. “We have a lot of very diverse populations, we have a lot of multigenerational households, we have a lot of children, we have a lot of people of color.”
Factors such as lack of internet access and poverty can also have negative effects on response rates. She suspected those could contribute, particularly, to the chronic undercounting of communities of color.
“We know that the communities with the higher poverty rates are Hispanic communities and African American communities,” Valencia said.
This year, the U.S. Census Bureau had an added challenge: the COVID-19 pandemic. It prevented census workers from reaching people through tried-and-true ways.
“Many of those things that we know are effective – reaching out to people through trusted voices like churches and schools and public libraries – all of those places closed down,” Valencia said.
The Census Bureau is trying out new ways to count in communities that prioritize worker safety and social distancing. Valencia is hopeful this will generate more responses before counts are delivered to the president and Congress in December.
Web story by Sarah Gabrielli.