Minority undercount in census will likely lead to lower political representation, big federal funding losses

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The federal census shows Georgia is more ethnically and racially diverse than a decade ago.Photo by Enayet Raheem, Unsplash

The U.S. Census Bureau undercounted Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans for the 2020 census, new government data shows – an omission likely to affect political representation and federal funding for minority communities for years to come.

The national population count every 10 years is used to draw legislative maps for both state and federal elected offices in all 50 states. It’s also used to allocate $1.5 trillion in federal money for everything from public housing to healthcare to road construction.

The census has been overcounting whites and Asians for decades while undercounting people of color. But the trend was noticeably magnified for the 2020 census, according to a  Census Bureau report released this month. The minority undercount was “larger in magnitude” than for 2010, according to the Census Bureau’s Post-Enumeration Survey, performed to assess the national headcount’s accuracy. 

All told, the survey estimates 18.8 million people weren’t counted who should have been. The census counted an estimated 323.2 million total households, up from 300.7 million in 2010. The 2020 census-takers faced a formidable challenge in trying to account for everyone just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, causing a national shut-down just weeks before the April 1, 2020 deadline, census officials said.

An estimated 5% of Latinos were not included in the 2020 count – over three times the undercount estimate for the 2010 census. Similarly, over 3% of Blacks were not counted.  Native Americans and Native Alaskans on reservations were undercounted by over 5%, the report said, a greater error margin than in 2010.

Minorities weren’t the only groups undercounted. People under the age of 50, children under the age of four, men, and renters also are underrepresented, while those over age 50, women, and homeowners are overrepresented, according to the survey.

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