By Luis Alfredo Vasquez-Ajmac
Despite the Census’ most robust marketing effort in its history, in California it seems most people are more concerned about Coachella concert ticket sales in 2020 rather than the Census 2020. All those outreach efforts may not be enough to outweigh the negative impact of a potential addition of the citizenship question that was blocked by the Supreme Court. “The damage has been done, regardless if the Supreme Court in-cludes the citizenship question. Outreach efforts must be doubled down to be intensi-fied and local communities need to get resources to minimize the damage that is going to occur “says Robert Santos, Vice President & Chief Methodologist Director, Statistical Methods Group.
With just nine months before all households will receive an invitation to respond, there are still many of gaps to be filled in order to have everyone participate, especially U.S. Latinos.
While millions of dollars have been invested in outreach in California, home to the larg-est U.S. Latino population, Diana Crofts-Playo of CA Complete Count offered no infor-mation on their plans after repeated requests to learn about its Latino outreach efforts. Maybe that’s one reason the Census is one of the biggest kept secrets in California.
The Census is a key building block to how political power and federal money is distribut-ed and much more. Which is why the upcoming Census 2020 is so important. Everyone counts despite racial differences, family size or citizenship status. The Census 2020 is especially important for U.S. Latinos who will have the most to lose by not participating. At the same time, many are aware that U.S. Latinos are the most significant hard-to-count group to reach and will have the largest undercount in the Census 2020.
One driving force behind this potential undercount is President Donald Trump’s decision to add a citizenship question which is predicted to make this the worst Census under-count of minority communities in 30 years. The Supreme Court is ruling at the end of June on whether or not to add this last minute question to the Census 2020.
According to NPR national reporter Hansi Lo Wong, who covers the Census, says “the Trump Administration was driven by deceased GOP strategist Thomas Hofeller’s ideas about how a response to a citizenship question on a Census form could be used in a way that could redraw Congressional districts that benefit Republicans and non-Hispanic white people.” Lo Wong adds, “This could be a disadvantage to Latinx groups and reduce the level of Latinx representation in multiple levels of government at both national to local levels.”
One of the many negative consequences of a Census undercount could lead to an in-correct estimation of market size for key economic and business investments, and the data could be compromised for the entire decade.
Also at stake is about $800 billion in public funds, political representation and U.S. commerce.
“The science suggests that the addition of the citizenship question is likely to impact both the participation rate and the cost of the 2020 Census,” says Christine Pierce, sen-ior vice president, Data Science, Nielsen Global Media.
Santos, sounded the alarm. “This is a principle concern for the Urban Institute, espe-cially in the policy environment, where it’s been shown with research that the addition of the citizenship question would lead to a suppression of people of color participating in the Census.”
Community leader and president of the National Association of Hispanic Publications, Fanny Miller, was even more direct about its impact. “It will keep people away. I am to-tally against it.”
The Census Bureau is confident, however, that they can overcome the citizenship question. Frances Alonso, Public Information Officer, says, “We’ve been planning the most robust marketing and outreach effort in Census history for the 2020 Census. Mar-keting and outreach will be done in many different languages through the 2020 Census Language Program. We will spend $500 million on marketing and advertising, up from $376 million in 2010.”
There are other still other challenges that need to be addressed. “One of the biggest gaps is between the Census and the Latino community,” added Miller, who represents 400 Latino newspapers nationwide. Moreover, she adds “if the Census really wants to reach the hard-to-count, they need to advertise heavily with minority newspapers and media because we are one of the most trusted sources in our communities. Most peo-ple do not know what is at stake. Many of our publications have been around for years and are pillars of their communities with a combined reach of 23 million readers each week nationwide.”
“Many of the hard-to-count are hard for a reason – mistrust in government. The only way to break the chill effect is to have people from the communities speak to their own about the importance of participation,” states Santos. He also believes “it’s incredibly important to push outreach funding to the people that matter – people of color.”
One of the other vexing issues for the Census 2020 is safety and cyber security con-cerns. In fact, the General Accounting Office has deemed the Census high risk of fraud and mismanagement.
One reason is that “this is the first Census where all households will be able to partici-pate online. That brings a lot of security risk, requires a lot of preparation and trouble-shooting for cyber security issues and infrastructure issues,” says Lo Wong.
The Census is adamant that responses to the 2020 Census are safe, secure and pro-tected by federal law. By law, your census responses cannot be used against you by any government agency or court in any way—not by the FBI, CIA, DHS and ICE.
“The law requires the Census Bureau to keep your information confidential and use your responses only to produce statistics,” says Alonso.
For the hard-to reach and immigrant communities with no internet access, the Census says anyone can call the toll-free number and respond by phone. We’ll provide the online questionnaire in 12 non-English languages.
The Census will also make help available by phone in those same languages. The 12 non-English languages are Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese and Japanese.
While the time is ticking, there is still much that can be done that to ensure that every-one participates in the upcoming 2020 Census Count.
Not only is it our civic duty, U.S. Latinos will lose out most by not engaging in the cen-sus count. That’s not good news for anyone. You can count on that.
To learn about the Census Count 2020 form, jobs and contracts, go to census.gov
Luis Alfredo Vasquez-Ajmac is an award-winning, multi-cultural marketing and media expert. He also led the US Latino market research effort for the 2010 Census nation-wide.