By Mike Schneider | Associated press
Black, Hispanic and Native American residents were missed at higher rates than a decade ago in the 2020 census, according to a report released Thursday that assessed how well the once-a-decade people count matched each resident American.
Even though the 2020 census missed a surprisingly small percentage of the total U.S. population given the unprecedented challenges it faced, increasing undercount among some minority groups prompted an outcry from civil rights leaders who blamed political interference from the Trump administration, which tried unsuccessfully to add a citizenship question to the census form and curtail field operations.
“These numbers are devastating. Once again, we are seeing an overcount of white Americans and an undercount of black and Hispanic Americans,” National Urban League CEO Marc Morial said in a call with reporters. “I want to express in the strongest possible terms our outrage.”
The US Census Bureau’s post-count survey results showed that most racial and ethnic minorities were being neglected at statistically higher rates than a decade ago, with the Asian population being an exception. The survey measures whether certain populations were undercounted or overrepresented in the census. Overcounts occur, for example, if someone owns a vacation home and is counted there as well as at a permanent residence address.
The 2020 census black population had a net undercount of 3.3%, while it was almost 5% for Hispanics and 5.6% for American Indians and Native Americans. Alaska living on reservations. Those who identified with another race had a net undercount of 4.3%. The non-Hispanic white population had a net overcoverage of 1.6% and Asians had a net overcoverage of 2.6%, according to one of the reports.
In the 2010 census, by comparison, the black population had a net undercount of more than 2%, while it was 1.5% for the Hispanic population. There was an undercount of nearly 4.9% for Native Americans and Native Americans living on reservations, and it was 1.6% for people identifying with another race and 0.08% for Asians. The non-Hispanic white population had a net overcoverage of 0.8%.
The 2020 census missed 0.24% of the entire US population, a rate that was not statistically significant, while it missed 0.01% in the 2010 census.
The Post-Census Survey also showed that very young children aged 0-4 were undercounted by 2.79% in 2020, down from 0.72% in 2010, and tenants had a net undercount nearly 1.5% in 2020 compared to nearly 1.1% in 2010.
Census figures help determine the breakdown of $1.5 trillion in federal spending each year as well as the number of congressional seats each state gets. Any undercounts in various populations can reduce the amount of funding and political representation they get over the next decade.
In the years leading up to the 2020 census, supporters feared that a failed attempt by the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the census questionnaire would deter Hispanics and immigrants from participating, whether they are legally or not in the country. The Trump administration also tried unsuccessfully to get the Census Bureau to illegally exclude locals from the numbers used to allocate congressional seats among states and to curtail the field operations schedule that had been extended in due to the pandemic.
In a conference call on Thursday, Census Bureau Director Robert Santos said many Latino communities across the United States had suffered during the pandemic from unemployment and housing insecurity, and that played a role in the undercount. But he added that the actions of the Trump administration may also have had an impact.
“I’m personally not surprised to see the results we’re seeing today,” said Santos, who was sworn in to the position earlier this year.
Arturo Vargas, CEO of NALEO Educational Fund, said he had never seen such a large undercount in the Hispanic population in the 35 years since the census.
“As you can imagine, we’re terribly — I can’t even find the word right now — upset about the extent of the Latino undercount,” Vargas said on the conference call.
About 70% of Native Americans live on reservations. James Tucker, chairman of a Census Bureau advisory committee, estimated the undercount resulted in at least 100,000 Native Americans on uncounted reservations and an annual loss of more than $300 million in federal funding for the Indian country.
“The substantial resources and efforts that tribes and national and local organizers have expended to get a full count in Indian Country have made a difference,” Tucker said. “Without these efforts, the undercount would undoubtedly have been much greater than it was.”
The pandemic has disrupted census operations and schedules, and made residents reluctant to open their doors to answer enumerators’ questions. Wildfires in the West and hurricanes on the Gulf Coast during the door-to-door phase of the people count caused residents to flee their homes.
Felicia Fonseca of Flagstaff, Arizona contributed to this report.