The 2020 U.S. Census count, which is central to our political system and economy, is off track due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Monday, 58.6 percent of the population had responded nationwide. The self-response rate was 53.2 percent in Texas, with Fort Bend County doing better at 65.2 percent.
The U.S. Census Bureau pushed down its field operations for the decennial count to run until the end of October. So, instead of the completion of the massive data collection by the end of December, it now intends to have it done and delivered to the U.S. President by April 30, 2021.
What is bothersome is that we really can’t be sure whether we will have adequately responded to the census call this go-round. This one will affect our community’s political influence and the billions of dollars in federal funds allotted to states and communities each year for the next 10 years. We understand that the population count throughout the U.S. will additionally determine how many seats in Congress each state gets and also political representation at all levels of government. So the higher the number of respondents, hence count, the more of an opportunity for representation and rightful funding.
Some of us responded at the onset of the census call that started in mid-March. But overall, the effort may have gone into a holding pattern as the pandemic took center stage.
April 1 was originally set aside as the snapshot date to count everyone in a given household, but most of us were probably sheltering in place after COVID-19’s arrival here about one month earlier. The U.S. Census Bureau calls it a reference date.
But because of temporary living arrangements for many during the pandemic, it’s been argued that the actual numbers reported could be faulty, which means residency appears to be at issue. For others, there was probably a lack of response altogether. Supporting that is a report indicating that in April 2010, there were more households as a percentage of the population that responded to the census as compared to April 2020.
In a video message recently posted on YouTube, Missouri City Mayor Yolanda Ford challenged residents to be counted. stating that now more than ever, this is a critical time. Missouri City reports that its resident response rate to the census went up in the last two weeks from 62.7 percent to 68.8.
Given our current state, is it a good idea to risk getting a grossly inaccurate undercount that will adversely affect us until the next census is administered in 2030?
We’ve been a bit distracted these days from economic and physical upheavals. And because of that, the next decade brings many more new challenges.
Maybe as the data collection deadline approaches in the fall with respondent numbers, we may want to consider whether the 2020 census may best serve our nation’s communities if it were to take place in 2021.
For now, it looks like we are moving forward with a recovery prognosis for Census 2020. You can respond online and be counted by visiting my2020census.gov, even if you did not receive the U.S. Census questionnaire by mail, or you may call 844-330-2020.