American Indians and Alaska Natives In the 2020 Census

2020 Census 04.17,18

Why is the census important?

The decennial census is the most inclusive civic activity in our country, covering every person in every household. The U.S. Constitution requires an accurate count of the nation’s population every 10 years. Moreover, the census is integral to our democracy. The data collected affects our nation’s ability to ensure equal representation and equal access to important governmental and private sector resources for all Americans, including across racial and ethnic lines. Census results are used to allocate seats and draw district lines for the U.S. House of Representatives, state legislatures, and local boards; to target more than $800 billion annually in federal assistance to states, localities, and families; and to guide community decision-making affecting schools, housing, health care services, business investment, and much more. These functions depend on a fair and accurate census.

Unfortunately, certain population groups – referred to as “hard-to-count” – are at a higher risk of not being fully counted in the census. Some of these groups have been historically underrepresented in the census for decades; some may experience new or increased vulnerability due to major changes in methodology, such as relying on the internet as the primary way for households to respond to the 2020 Census; and some may be reluctant to respond due to concerns about data confidentiality. Being hard-to-count can lead to unequal political representation and unequal access to vital public and private resources for these groups and their communities.

Native households are at risk of being undercounted.

As of 2016, there were approximately 5.6 million Native people (alone or in combination) in the United States, which is about 2 percent of the total population. By 2060, it is projected that there will be 10.2 million Native peoples in the United States. Currently, the state with the largest Native population share is Alaska, with Oklahoma, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Montana rounding out the top five. American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIAN or Native peoples) have been undercounted for decades6 and roughly one quarter (26 percent) of Natives currently live in hard-to-count Census tracts.

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