The much-anticipated 2020 U.S. Census data is scheduled to be released Thursday, March 17. The census is conducted once every ten years and is designed to count every resident in the United States. Census data is used many ways; for example, to determine the number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, adjust electoral districts, and inform the allocation of federal funding.
You may have seen headlines in recent weeks indicating that the 2020 census undercounted and overcounted certain subgroups of the population. Because so many of our readers rely on federal funding and serve populations that may have been undercounted, we are providing context in anticipation of the release of the 2020 data.
Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released results from analyses of the quality of the 2020 Census counts. As described in a March 10th press release from the U.S. Census Bureau, the total census population count was strong. However, the analyses showed that certain demographic groups were undercounted.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Black or African American population, American Indian or Alaska Native population living on a reservation, the Hispanic or Latino population, and people who report being of “some other race” were all undercounted in the 2020 census. And, adding to the challenge, many of the groups that were undercounted are the same groups that have been historically undercounted.
Young children (birth to age 4) have also historically been undercounted in the Census. 2020 is no exception. The U.S. Census Bureau reports the largest undercount of young children since the 1970 Census. This is attributable, in part, to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to disrupted living arrangements and the closure of settings (e.g., child care, community organizations) where communications campaigns might reach families. The U.S. Census Bureau also highlights the impact of living situations.
Young children are more likely than other age groups to be in complex living situations such as multigenerational households, households with nonrelatives, or blended family households with both biological and stepchildren, which can lead to children getting missed in the count.
Challenges with the 2020 census underscore the importance of comprehensive data gathering to understand the needs of families and numbers of children eligible for services such as Head Start/Early Head Start. There is a wealth of resources available. You might consider resources such as diversitydatakids.org, which includes research and data designed to help programs improve child wellbeing.
Further, there are sources of population estimates, such as the Census Bureau’s Population and Housing Unit Estimates (PEP) program, that could be helpful for those looking for more accurate estimates for undercounted populations. Through a new approach to estimates, which began at the start of the decade, PEP will help to mitigate the undercounts in 2020 census data.
We look forward to reviewing 2020 census data and sharing insights on the use of the data. If your program needs assistance with data gathering to support program planning or to conduct a community assessment, please reach out. We would be glad to talk with you and learn more about your program’s needs.
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