09.24.19

“Perfect storm” gathers over 2020 census

Bill O’Hare calls it a perfect storm.

As the United States prepared for the 2020 decennial count of all its residents, several factors converged to make it the most high-stakes exercise in memory.

“This will be the hardest census of my lifetime,” said O’Hare, a national expert who specializes in demographics.

Here are his top five reasons why:

The census has been underfunded for a decade, thanks to Republican congressional efforts to rein in government spending, especially on hard-to-count populations that tend to vote for Democrats, he said.

Because of budget cuts, the Census Bureau is trying new, untested methodologies to help ensure an accurate and complete count, including moving much of its outreach efforts online. “That’s not a good recipe,” he said.

The Trump administration’s well-publicized push to add a citizenship question, which was stopped by the U.S. Supreme Court, “no doubt will reduce cooperation with Hispanic households and with minorities and immigrants.” O’Hare added.

Americans are less willing than ever to respond to any survey, citing privacy and confidentiality concerns.

In response to increased privacy concerns, the Census Bureau is likely to release less information once it collects the data than ever before.

On the positive side, advocates for a complete count outside the census have mobilized far more than in the past and are much more on top of the issue.

Will the positives outweigh the negatives?

“Hindsight will make it easier to sort out,” O’Hare said.

by Chris Barge