Black people may have been undercounted in the 2020 census at a significantly higher rate than usual, according to two new analyses, reports the Washington Post. Undercounting is significant because it could affect representation in Washington, D.C., and funding in Black communities over the next 10 years.
What’s more, a simulation comparing the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimates with results from 2010 show the Black population could have been undercounted by a rate as three times as high in 2010. According to a second report, Black children may have been undercounted at a rate up to 10 times as high 10 years ago.
What this all means is that the 2020 census may have undercounted the Black population by as many as 2 million people, according to the Washington Post.
When communities are undercounted, it could impact their access to Medicaid and Medicare, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), highway planning and construction, Section 8 housing vouchers and Head Start.
Activist organizations have long feared this could happen, especially because of the pandemic.
“This might be our greatest undercount since 1960, or 1950,” said Marc Morial, president and chief executive of the National Urban League, which sued the bureau last year to stop the count from ending early.
Here is more from the Post:
Even in the best of times, the census tends to overcount some populations and undercount others, with the highest undercounts among minorities, renters, low-income people and children. But the 2020 Census was fraught with challenges, including Trump administration efforts to add a citizenship question, the coronavirus pandemic, natural disasters, and legal battles over the count’s end date. All of these raised concerns among experts about whether the undercounts would be more significant this time.
“It was a perfect storm for an undercount on multiple levels,” said Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.). Many people in poor and minority communities are already reluctant to respond to questions about their household members, a problem that was exacerbated by the additional challenges, she said. “I’m hopeful that the official numbers are not as low as the ones that the analysts are putting out, but the numbers that we’ve seen from these analysts are disturbing.”
The simulation, an independent analysis conducted by Connie Citro, a statistician who is also a senior scholar at the Committee on National Statistics at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, presents three possibilities for a net undercount of people who check Black and no other race, based on the bureau’s low, middle and high independent population estimates released in December. Citro calculated a net undercount of between 3.24 and 7.25 percent, compared with a 2.3 percent net undercount for that group in 2010.
For people who check Black in combination with other races, Citro’s analysis found a range between a 0.28 percent overcount and a 4.36 percent undercount, compared with a 1.1 percent undercount for that group in 2010.
The full extent of the survey’s undercounts and overcounts will become clearer next year when the bureau releases what is known as its modified race file, a tally that reassigns people who marked “some other race” alone into Black and non-Black categories. A post-enumeration survey, conducted by the bureau after each decennial census, will further assess the accuracy of the 2020 count.
Again, because the census was counted during the worst period of the pandemic, these undercounts were expected. Nonetheless, it is no less devastating.
William O’Hare, author of the book The Undercount of Young Children in the U.S. Decennial Census said the impact on Black kids will be severe.
“I’m very concerned,” O’Hare said. “The biggest implication has to do with funding — federal funding and state funding. Places that have large numbers and percentages of Blacks and Hispanics the census data [misses], they won’t get their fair share of funding and resources.”