Niken Astari Carpenter, New American Liaison
for the City of Erie, shows one of the banners in downtown Erie that are encouraging people to participate in the U.S. Census. The city estimates it loses $2,100 a year for every person who is not counted. In past census years, the city says refugees and immigrants have been undercounted.
Julia Agos is a reporter and the host of All Things Considered for WITF. Previously, she was a political reporter for WFUV News in New York, where she covered New York City and state politics and hosted the Prickly Politics Podcast. Julia grew up in Sacramento, California and graduated from Fordham University.
Participating in the Census is part of one’s civic duty, like filing taxes and voting, according to Charles Ellison, moderator of WITF’s Toward Racial justice panel.
“This is absolutely critical for our vulnerable populations, for our Black and Brown and Indigenous populations, which were woefully undercounting in the last Census in 2010,” Ellison said.
Analysis of the 2010 Census data showed a two percent undercount of Black people and 1.5 percent undercount of Hispanic people, nationally. That adds up to 1.5 million people who were not included in the census.
Meantime, the over counting of white people was by 36,000.
For every person who is undercounted in Pennsylvania, a community misses out on $2,100 a year, according to Governor Tom Wolf’s Census 2020 Complete Count Commission.
That is why Commission Executive Director Norman Bristol Colon said the stakes are high this time around.
“Undercounting these populations means for the next 10 years, Pennsylvania’s resources will be diminished because we are not providing the adequate count to these populations,” Colon said.
Communities without an accurate count stand to lose out on funding for Medicaid, SNAP, and school lunch programs. Colon said funding will never reach a community if they are not counted.
“Most of the lack of resources, most of the lack of funding, where poverty is concentrated in many Latino barrios and African American neighborhoods, its related to the U.S. Census,” he said.
Kimberly Corbin, Chief Financial and Administrative Officer at the Greater Washington Urban League, said misinformation and fear tactics are some of the reasons communities of color are disproportionately under counted.
“It is time for us to stand up and stop participating in our own marginalization. Because somebody said they are going to steal your information, or they are going to send the cops, or they are going to send ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). By law, none of that can happen,” she said.
Corbin said such messaging is meant to scare and confuse marginalized communities.
“It’s meant to disenfranchise you so that you will remain invisible. You remain invisible. Your community becomes neglected,” Corbin said.
This year, to expand the count, the Census Bureau deployed mobile units all around the country to try to reach people at their homes.
George Fernandez, CEO of The Latino Connection, said the approach helps to gain the confidence of historically underserved communities.
“Whether it is using our mobile unite or our digital ad displays at corner stores and bodegas. When you meet them where they are and they are meeting people who look like them, you are building trust and confidence. Therefore, for they are going trust the message you are bringing home,” Fernandez said.
So far, about 67 percent of Pennsylvania’s have participated in the census. The deadline to be counted is Sept 30th. Visit my2020cenus.gov to fill out the questionnaire.
Join WITF for the next installment of the Toward Racial Justice community conversation series, Thursday August 27 at 7 on WITF’s YouTube channel.