Gupta to Congress: 2020 Census Undercount Could Erase Marginalized Communities
WASHINGTON – Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, testified today on the multitude of risks that could keep people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ people, young children, and low-income households from being counted in the upcoming 2020 Census — leading to loss of public funds and political representation for already vulnerable communities for the next 10 years. The hearing, “Reaching Hard-to-Count Communities in the 2020 Census,” was held by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
In her testimony, Gupta outlined the various challenges the U.S. Census Bureau will face in accurately counting these communities and how the Census Counts campaign is working to fill the gaps.
“A fair and accurate census is among the most important civil rights issues of our day. Not only is the census central to apportioning political power, but the data also influence significant federal funding for services like schools, fire departments, and hospitals. It is the bedrock of our representative democracy and has enormous impact on the nation’s ability to ensure equal treatment under the law,” Gupta said in her oral statement.
“Hard-to-count communities are in every state and district, from large urban areas to rural and remote communities, including American Indian tribal lands and reservations.”
Gupta also discussed the resources that the Census Counts campaign is deploying to make sure hard-to-count communities aren’t missed in the 2020 Census. The campaign — housed at The Leadership Conference Education Fund — is an effort by national, state, and local organizations to help ensure a fair and accurate count through community education, training, organizing, and outreach.
There are several reasons hard-to-count communities may not participate in the census, including:
- Distrust of the government
- Language and literacy barriers
- Fears that data may be used to deport or otherwise persecute them
- An increased likelihood of experiencing poverty or homelessness
- Limited or inconsistent access to mail services or the internet
- Lack of information around the process or requirements
As we begin the nation’s first high-tech census, Gupta’s remarks underscore the urgency of reaching hard-to-count communities to combat the threats of disinformation, a culture of fear, and limited access to the internet. Census Counts partner organizations include people and networks who live and work in the communities most at risk of being missed in the 2020 Census. As trusted national and local messengers, they are able to communicate the facts and importance of the census, provide resources to facilitate participation, and address community members’ concerns.
Gupta’s written testimony is available here.
Several Census Counts campaign partners and coalition members of The Leadership Conference will also testify, including Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, NALEO Educational Fund, National Congress of American Indians, and National Urban League.
Background: What’s the Census and Why Does it Matter?
Every 10 years, the Constitution requires the federal government to count everyone living in the United States — regardless of immigration status.
Census-derived data are used to allocate more than $1.5 trillion in federal funding annually to communities across the country. This helps pay for affordable health care programs, making sure kids don’t go hungry at school, critical infrastructure projects to treat drinking water and repair roads, and more. It’s also used to assign fair representation in Congress, as well as state and local legislatures that can help ensure your concerns are heard and your needs are met.
Hard-to-count communities encompass a wide swath of people who have historically been missed in the decennial census — depriving their communities of fair political representation and critical resources.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 220 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.
The Leadership Conference Education Fund builds public will for federal policies that promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. The Education Fund’s campaigns empower and mobilize advocates around the country to push for progressive change in the United States. It was founded in 1969 as the education and research arm of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. For more information on The Education Fund, visit civilrights.org/edfund/.