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Many Latinos and other people of color were not counted in the 2020 Census.
Latinos have historically been undercounted, but the 2020 Census undercounted Latinos by more than three times the rate for that group in the 2010 census, CNN reports.
Learn what led to the census undercount, why it matters for Latinos, and how we can fight inequities in our communities.
What Happened with the 2020 Census?
Overall, about 0.24% of the country’s population, or about 782,000 people, were not counted in the 2020 Census.
The undercount rate for Latinos was 4.99%, according to NPR.
Latinos are often undercounted because the Census has a harder time reaching marginalized communities.
“The census has historically undercounted populations that are harder to reach through surveys, phone calls and door-to-door canvassing, including Native Americans on reservations, poor urban communities and undocumented immigrants,” according to The New York Times.
This Census was worse due to the nature of 2020.
“Disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic and interference by former President Donald Trump’s administration raised alarms about the increased risk of the once-a-decade tally missing swaths of the country’s population,” according to NPR.
Groups like the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund (NALEO) tried to reach Latino communities by partnering with Spanish-language media and doing outreach efforts.
“We know that during the economic turmoil brought on by COVID-19, Census Bureau operational changes, and misinformation around the census, Latinos continue to have lower self-response rates than the general population. Our efforts with Telemundo seek to mitigate these barriers to participation and empower Latinos with the information we need to make ourselves seen and heard by participating in the census,” said Arturo Vargas, CEO of NALEO, in a statement in 2020.
But these efforts were not enough, as the undercounts persisted.
Vargas hopes that future Census counts will be more modernized.
“This whole notion of coming up with a master address file and mailing everybody an invitation to participate and hoping that they respond, and if they don’t, you go knock on their doors, that’s an obsolete way now of counting the U.S. population. We need a better way. I don’t have the answer to what that better way is, but I want to work with the Census Bureau to figure it out,” Vargas said, according to NPR.
Census Bureau Director Robert Santos, who was sworn in January 2022 as the first Latino to serve in this position, acknowledged these concerns but maintained that the data collected would be sufficient.
“The Census Bureau faced an unprecedented set of challenges over the last two years. Many of you, myself included, have voiced concerns. How could anyone not be concerned?” Santos said in a statement, according to CNN. “Today’s findings will put some of those concerns to rest and leave others for further exploration.”
Why Does it Matter for Latinos?
Being left out of the Census can have major implications for Latinos. The Census is used to determine Congressional representation and federal funding.
This could exacerbate inequities in poorer, more rural areas.
“Every undercounted household and individual in our communities means lost funding and resources that are desperately needed to address the significant disparities we face,” said Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians, according to NPR.
Undercounting also leads to less representation in Congress and less money per year for assistance programs like Medicaid, child and foster care, and Head Start.
With less funding towards areas with Latinos, it could mean:
- If 3% of Latinos are undercounted, Florida could lose $131 million for Medicaid (children only). The state could lose $525 million for children-only Medicaid if 12% of Latinos are undercounted.
- Texas could lose between $9.8 million to $39.4 million for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for a 3% to 12% undercount of Latinos.
- Texas could also lose up to $14 billion of federal money for housing, child and foster care, and other family aid programs.
- Colorado could lose $712,470 to $2.8 million in funding for Title IV-E Foster Care if 3% to 12% of Latinos are undercounted.
- Arizona could lose $648,300 to $2.5 million in funding for Child Care and Development Block Grants (CCDBG) for a 3% to 12% undercount of Latinos.
Several advocacy groups have threatened litigation over the inaccurate count, but because the overall count was deemed accurate, it may not be successful.
How Else Can We Help Underserved Communities like Latinos?
As the first Latino director of the Census Bureau, Santos wants to prioritize establishing trust with underserved communities.
“My role as the director of the Census Bureau is to lead this great organization in producing quality data on the American people, places and economy. An important aspect of that is cultivating trust with all our nation’s communities, be they urban or rural, low-income or high-income, and regardless of race or ethnicity or other socio-demographic groups,” Santos said, according to his Census Blog.
He also plans to continue examining the results to see how they can be improved for the next Census.
“We’ll be exploring the under- and overcounts further. That is part of our due diligence, our pursuit of excellence, and our service to the country,” Santos said, according to a press release.
Latinos and other people of color deserve equal access to resources like federal programs that are determined by the Census.
What opportunities do Latinos have in your area?
Download a Salud America! Health Equity Report Card to find out.
Select your county name and you will see how your area stacks up in housing, transit, poverty, health care, physical activity, and other health equity issues compared to the rest of your state and nation.
The Health Equity Report Card auto-generates local data with interactive maps and comparative gauges, which can help you visualize health inequities.
You can email your Health Equity Report Card and share it on social media. Also, use it to make the case for community change to boost health equity, where everyone has a fair, just opportunity to live their healthiest.