Why Should We Care About an Accurate Census?

//Why Should We Care About an Accurate Census?

Every 10 years, the United States Census Bureau carries out a constitutionally mandated count, or Census, of the nation’s residents. The Census is supposed to count everyone living in the United States to determine representation in Congress as well as the amount of federal dollars dispersed in any given location for health care, housing, education, transportation, and more.

An accurate Census is important for many reasons. It shows how many people live in a given area, and that determines the number of representatives those people will have in Congress as well as electoral votes in presidential elections. It also shapes how federal tax dollars get allocated to certain areas to support local housing, transportation, and other services. When businesses are looking for a place to set up shop, they look at demographic data from the Census to find the best place to expand and create jobs.

As important as it is to have an accurate Census, it can be logistically challenging to count everyone in a state as diverse and massive as Texas. That challenge could get even worse because of changes to the questionnaire, especially the addition of a citizenship question.

 

The Census Bureau’s decision for 2020 to add a question about people’s U.S. citizenship status could worsen the undercount challenges that already exist, particularly for immigrants of all statuses and their families. This controversial question has been described as a scare tactic aimed at Latino immigrants, but its effects could be more widespread, creating a much larger Census undercount.

An undercount in the Census would be especially disastrous for Texans. Communities would be deprived of critical information and funding necessary to respond to the needs of our growing state. The state could also lose out on representation in Washington, since the Census determines the number of seats Texas has in Congress. Not only that, billions of dollars in federal aid depend on the accuracy of the Census – even a 1% undercount could cost Texas  $300 million a year in reduced federal funds for critical services.

Read our latest policy brief, Why the 2020 Census Matters to Texans, to find out more.

Kristie Tingle joined the Center as a Research Analyst in 2016. She works on data-based advocacy projects at the Center, including the Texas KIDS COUNT project. She has previously researched unemployment insurance policy at the Ray Marshall Center. Kristie received her Master of Arts in Economics from the University of Texas at Austin in 2015 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television, and Film from Auburn University.

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