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Census changes and counting challenges.

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The 2020 Census is rapidly approaching. As part of the penultimate year of preparations the Census Bureau is finalizing questions (these were due by March 31st) and running a pilot test in Rhode Island. However, the 2020 Census is turning out to be controversial, mainly because of the inclusion of a question on citizenship. Secretary Ross, the U.S.’s Commerce Secretary, approved the citizenship question for inclusion in the 2020 Census just a few days before the March 31st deadline.

Why does this addition to the Census matter? According to Secretary Ross, there is no evidence that the citizenship question will deter most people from answering the Census honestly. Many advocacy organizations, though, disagree and are adamantly opposed to a citizenship question. They believe that asking about citizenship will stop many people from filling out the Census, which will result in an undercount.

Undercounts may have wide-ranging implications for policy, advocacy, and voting. Nearly all of Thoughtwell’s work relies on accurate Census counts. Those Needs Assessments we write? They depend on knowing how many children live in Franklin County, at what income level, and with what family makeup. Without accurate knowledge on the population it is impossible to plan appropriate programs and interventions. Not only that, but inaccurate counts may have ripple effects in the House of Representatives if some states experience a disproportionate undercount and thus lose representation.

So what can you do? Talk to your legislators and emphasize the importance of an accurate Census count. Several states and organizations have sued the federal government in an attempt to remove the citizenship question. Regardless of the lawsuit outcomes it will be important to encourage everyone in your community to fill out the Census come 2020; though the law is ambiguous, it may actually be illegal to not take the Census.

Becky ZwicklThoughtwell