The census is an official count of the U.S. population that takes place every 10 years. The next census is right around the corner in 2020, which we know will capture an increasingly diverse population of approximately 330 million people.
What may seem like boring, boilerplate people-counting is actually darn important. Here’s why:
- It Helps to Shape Congress
Census data establishes equal political representation, both in Congress and in terms of fair allocation of federal funds to local communities. Census data are also used to inform policy debates and decision-making, to guide foundation strategies, investment, and evaluations while measuring socio-economic conditions by area, region, and demographic. The census determines whether Delaware gets another U.S. Representative.
- It Funnels Dollars to Delaware
The 2010 U.S. Census allocated two billion dollars, or $2,214 per capita, in federal funds to Delaware. However, there was a significant under-count: one percent of the state (8,979 people) was not calculated in the distribution of funds. This translates to more than $14 million that Delaware missed out on last time around.
For a complete breakdown of the federal funds allocated to Delaware, click here.
- Miscounts Can Contribute to Inequities
Miscounting the population is not unheard of. The census count often over-counts non-Hispanic whites, and under-counts people of color (including American Indians on reservations, young children (ages zero to four), immigrant and non-English speaking households, and lower-income people.
Children ages zero to four are the mostly likely age group to be under-counted. African American and Hispanic kids under five are overlooked twice as often as non-Hispanic, white counterparts.
Latino men face greater odds of under-count due to their overrepresentation in the criminal justice system (people in prison aren’t counted) and their lower rates of citizenship. The net under-count for black men between ages 30-49 was more than 10 percent.
“[The] traditional hard-to-count groups, like renters, were counted less well,” Census Bureau director Robert Groves told CBS News in 2012. “Because ethnic and racial minorities disproportionately live in hard-to-count circumstances, they too were under-counted relative to the majority population.”
In Delaware, these “Hard to Count (HTC)” communities face inequitable political representation and potential programmatic funding deficits. Currently, there are 21.4 percent of black communities, 23.6 percent of Latinos, and 8.5 percent of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders living in HTC Delaware census tracts.
- It Impacts Students and Education, Too
Under-counting hurts the total number of dollars a state receives for children/student-centered funds like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Education Grants (IDEA), Title I (LEA), Child Care Development Fund (CCDF), and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP).
- Local Advocates Can Help Get the Count Out
Making sure Delaware gets a fair and accurate census count starts now. Between March 1 and June 30, Delaware state and local government will update the Census Bureau’s master address lists—that is, all the homes that will be contacted by mail, internet, or a home visit. The Funders Committee for Civic Participation (FCCP) recommends community-based organizations create their own canvassing strategy to supplement this process by identifying HTC communities and sharing the data with the Census Bureau. Delaware-based philanthropy organizations and non-profits alike can play a critical role.
- Funders can spread the word among grantees about why an accurate census count matters for getting equitable federal funding and engaging hard-to-reach communities and populations. For resources and information, grant makers can download the 2020 Census Funder Toolkit from the Funders Census Initiative.
- Community-based organizations and non-profits can help with canvassing and reaching HTC communities. Community-based organizations can create a canvassing strategy and work with local government and the Census Bureau to collect and submit the information needed. FCCP offers guidance on how to reduce the likelihood of an under-count here.
- Funders and community-based organizations can collaborate on a campaign to convene organizations to discuss mobilizing an action plan to get out the count. Working together, this campaign can not only make sure organizations are supporting a fair and accurate census count, but it could also inform and inspire citizens to participate in the 2020 Census.