Why a Fair and Accurate 2020 Census Matters

Being left out of the census can deprive population groups and communities of vital public and private resources.

A new analysis from the George Washington Institute of Public Policy makes clear the value of a fair and accurate decennial census and the dire consequences of failing to achieve that goal. This analysis of the geographic distribution of funds from the 16 largest census-guided programs is designed to help stakeholders and policymakers understand the extent to which federal financial assistance is distributed on the basis of census-derived data.

This analysis is being released as stakeholders sound the alarm about the consequences of serious budget shortfalls for the U.S. Census Bureau. Stakeholders are calling on Congress and the administration to ensure that the Census Bureau has the resources it needs – when it needs them – to prepare for and conduct a fair and inclusive 2020 Census.

At this point in the decennial cycle, the Census Bureau requires a sufficient funding ramp-up to keep 2020 Census planning and preparations on track. Funding for the decennial census is cyclical and traditionally increases significantly in the years ending in “6” through “0.”

Unfortunately, Congress’ failure to pass Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 appropriations bills on time, coupled with underfunding in the final “omnibus” appropriations bill, forced the Census Bureau to eliminate, streamline, or delay vital planning activities, putting a fair and accurate 2020 Census in jeopardy. Furthermore, the Trump administration’s FY 2018 budget request for the Census Bureau is woefully inadequate and unrealistic. The House Appropriations Committee’s proposed bill adds just $10 million more than the president’s proposal.

Two of three dress rehearsal sites in 2018 for the 2018 End-to-End Census Test (in West Virginia and Washington state) have been cancelled due to uncertainty about timely and sufficient funding for the next fiscal year. The End-to-End Test is a dry run of all census operations that integrates all operations and IT systems for the first time. In addition, the dry run for the advertising campaign and Partnership Program, key ways to reach hard-to-count populations, has been cancelled for the remaining dress rehearsal site (Providence, RI).

Click here for a one-page introduction to George Washington Institute of Public Policy’s research, which explains how census advocates can use the numbers effectively and appropriately.