By T.A. Hendrickson
Census response rates continue to lag in areas with large concentrations of Latino residents, according to the latest Census Policy Update by the National Organization of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO).
In census tracts in which Latinos are the most numerous population group, the recent average response rate was 46.9%, nearly 15 percentage points behind the national average, of 61.8%, according to NALEO. In the state of California, the self-response rate recently was 62.9%. In Los Angeles, the self-response rate was 51.4%.
In Northeast Los Angeles, the census self-response map shows a range of participation rates, from a low of 30% to 40% in parts of Highland Park to a high of 68% to 74% in parts of Eagle Rock.
A census undercount of any group has damaging consequences because the total population count determines how much federal money will flow to a state every year for the next 10 years. With state and local budgets decimated by the coronavirus, an undercount in the 2020 Census would be especially harmful.
In late July, the Census Bureau will send another reminder to complete the census to households that have not responded to Census 2020. NALEO is pushing for the mailing to include the actual Census 2020 paper questionnaire that can be filled out and returned by mail, rather than just a postcard reminder. Data show that mailing a paper Census form would yield more responses than sending a reminder.
Giovany Hernandez, the California senior census program manager for the NALEO Educational Fund, told the Boulevard Sentinel that everyone who has completed the census should encourage family, friends and neighbors to do the same. Images, information and how-to guides that you can share on social media can be downloaded here.
One of the reasons for lower Latino response rates is that the Census Bureau has emphasized responding online, which is a challenge in households that do not have computers. With public libraries closed during the pandemic, accessing a computer has also become more difficult. Low response rates may also be the result of anti-immigrant rhetoric and actions in the run up to Census 2020, which has created fear in Latino communities that information they provide in the census may be used to target them or their family members. The law prevents using census data in this way, but the fear is real.
An undercount, however, will only makes life harder because it will reduce funding for services that individuals and families need, including health care, education and environmental protection.
If you haven’t yet responded to Census 2020, you can respond online here. Or you can respond by phone in English at 844-330-2020 or in Spanish at 844-468-2020.
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T.A. Hendrickson, a native of Eagle Rock, is the editor of the Boulevard Sentinel and a former member of the Editorial Board of the New York Times.