The Partnership for America’s Children is calling on Congress to include imperative language in the next COVID relief package that would extend the statutory reporting deadlines for the 2020 Census by four months and prohibit the Bureau and the President from sending the relevant data to the Congress in advance of those deadlines.
The Bureau had to delay many census operations because of the pandemic. The extension is essential to make sure that the Census Bureau can count everyone, especially young children who are at particularly high risk of being missed. The 2010 Census missed 2 million children under age 5–by far the largest number of people missed in any age group. When young children are missed in the census, it reduces the federal resources for their schools, their child care, their health care, and many other programs essential for their well-being. Missing a young child means reducing the resources they need to thrive for a decade–most of their childhood.
Only weeks ago, senior expert career Census Bureau staff said unequivocally that they could not responsibly finish their by the statutorily required December 31, 2020 deadline. Accordingly, the Secretary of Commerce wisely requested that Congress extend the reporting deadlines for apportionment and redistricting data. Now the administration is suggesting that this painstaking work can be done by the legally required deadlines.
The Bureau must be given enough time to complete its work fairly and accurately. If the Bureau does not have enough time to reach people through its door to door enumerations process, children in every community will be harmed for the next 10 years. Over a third of the nation’s households have not yet responded, and every community has areas where the response rate lags significantly. Young children are especially at risk of being missed. A recent analysis from the Population Reference Bureau shows that the average self-response rate in census tracts with a very high risk of undercounting young children was fifty-five percent. This number is far below the self-response rate in census tracts with a low risk of undercounting young children, which was sixty-nine percent. Rushing the census will exacerbate these disparities in the final count instead of allowing time to close the gap.
An accurate complete Census is vital for our children and our democracy. Census data determines the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal funding every year, and communities use it for planning and good government. Education funding is particularly vulnerable to a flawed census because federal funds for Title 1 and special educate are allocated to local education authorities—relatively small demographic groups—which will suffer from even minor fluctuations in the count.
Our children’s future, and therefore our constitutionally mandated census, is not negotiable.