WASHINGTON – Leading civil rights organizations and census experts say ongoing policy decisions could put a successful 2020 Census at risk, including a lack of sufficient funding for rigorous, on-time census planning and preparations, and the need for a highly qualified and respected professional to serve as the next Senate-confirmed director of the U.S. Census Bureau.
The 2020 Census will be in full swing in two and a half years; hiring and address updating has started for a vital 2018 dress rehearsal; and states and municipalities are preparing to review the all-important address lists for their areas. Yet, Congress’ failure to allocate timely and adequate funding for the Census Bureau in 2017 already has stymied plans for next year’s dry run and delayed work on a multi-million-dollar communications campaign. The Trump administration’s FY 2018 budget request for the Census Bureau is woefully inadequate and unrealistic, and congressional appropriators have not yet approved more funding.
The Civil Rights community has just expressed their concern about the growing harmful consequences for activities that could help ensure a successful census, should budget shortfalls continue. The census has historically missed disproportionately high numbers of people of color, low-income households in urban and rural areas, immigrants, and young children (especially Black and Latino). Activities to eliminate this undercount must be built into the census process now. Congress has constitutional responsibility for making sure the enumeration is done well.
Vanita Gupta, president and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said, “The Census Bureau cannot afford to delay preparations for the 2020 Census any longer. Communities of color, urban and rural low-income households, immigrants, and young children are all at risk of being missed at disproportionately high rates. The health and well-being, as well as the political power of all of the diverse communities in America, rests on a fair and accurate count. These concerns are neither theoretical nor off in the distance.
“Preparations for the 2020 Census have already started. Time is of the essence, and we must continue to press for sufficient resources and timely nomination of a qualified, non-partisan candidate to lead the Census Bureau through the particularly challenging final years before the constitutionally-required enumeration.”