The U.S. Census is an accounting of everyone who lives in the country. A new study from The Urban Institute, a think tank that conducts social and economic research, said the country will likely miss a lot of people, upward of 4 million of them.
The study expects Hispanics in particular to be undercounted in part because of the Trump administration's decision to add a question about citizenship to the census. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule later this month on whether that’s legal.
Ibero-American Action League’s Julio Saenz said that problem is not new.
“It's a long-standing issue that the census bureau has had for many, many decades. I’ve seen estimates that as much as 30% of the population is missed with their methods,” said Saenz.
Saenz said some Hispanics are avoiding being counted because of privacy issues. He said some people don’t want to give their information to the government.
New York state’s Complete Count Commission said about 170,000 Monroe County residents live in what are known as hard-to-count census tracts. Those tracts include parts of Brighton, Henrietta, Brockport and much of the city of Rochester, where a significant portion of the county’s Hispanic population resides.
Saenz said the census should not be a political act.
“This isn’t about getting political; this is just about getting the most accurate number,” Saenz said. “That’s what the census is about so we can marshal our resources from the government and give people the services that they need so we can have strong cities and strong communities.”
The number of people who live in an area affects federal funding and representation. That means undercounted areas won’t get funding to match their actual populations, which could lead to shorter library hours or closures, less money for federally funded nonprofits or schools, and in some cases, fewer state and congressional representatives.
The census is hiring thousands of people locally to get the word out -- and adding online options to fill out the form, along with traditional methods like on the phone, in person, and by mail.