(DailyVantage.com) – Every 10 years, the United States Census, a population count, takes place. Its purpose is twofold: to determine the number of seats a state holds in the House of Representatives and how to allocate federal funds to communities. Accuracy is important to ensure each state and local community gets the help and representation it needs. Due to the pandemic, many feared the 2020 census would result in a drastic undercount. Yet, preliminary data shows this isn’t the case.
According to an analysis carried out by Urban Institute, a think tank, the census resulted in an undercount of the US population by an estimated 0.5%. This number far exceeds 2010, which saw an undercount rate of 0.01%, but it’s not far off from the 2000 rate of 0.49%.
Experts predicted a much higher margin of missed population, but Urban Institute noted the undercounts impacted some communities more than others. Blacks had the highest rate at 2.45%, with Hispanics following closely behind at 2.17%. In the same vein, the census overcounted Caucasians by 0.39%.
Pandemic, Hurricanes and Wildfires, Oh My!
There’s no doubting 2020 was one for the books. As if COVID-19 wasn’t bad enough, hurricanes and wildfires contributed to the obstacles US Census takers faced. While the actual results of any over or undercount won’t be available until the bureau releases its accuracy report card next year, the estimate looks promising — considering all that’s involved.
One factor may have contributed to a lower undercount rate than expected: Most people could fill out their forms online. In past surveys, this wasn’t a widespread option. The first online census took place in 2000, and its popularity has only increased with successive counts. In 2020, the government asked most people to fill out the form online, taking advantage of the technology available to most.
One reason why accuracy is extremely important is population holds so much power over states and communities. If one community experiences a drastic undercount, it affects citizens’ representation and, more importantly, community funding. Each year, the federal government dispurses $1.5 trillion where it’s needed most. Undercounted communities may not receive sufficient funding to serve their entire populations, causing communities to suffer.
Lack of funding could mean fewer outreach programs, less funding for schools and lack of public housing, to name a few. It’s why census workers take such care to reach those in all areas, even rural communities where houses might be miles apart and up in the mountains in closed-off dwellings.
These results are preliminary, but they raise concerns about specific areas, races and potential negative impacts to those populations. Hopefully, when the yearly accuracy report comes out next year, we’ll have more insight into the actual results, and government officials can work towards a solution and ensure more accurate counts. Their livelihoods truly depend on it.
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