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Census 2020: Your Senator Needs to Hear from You

Census 2020: Your Senator Needs to Hear from You

The Census Bureau has announced that it will terminate data collection at the end of September, rather than at the end of October as previously announced.

This change increases the likelihood that the 37 percent of residents who have not yet responded to the 2020 Census will not be counted. Those who have not yet responded are members of hard-to-count populations: rural residents, persons with low or no income, members of ethnic and racial minorities, persons with limited proficiency in English, and persons with low levels of educational attainment.

To be sure our adult learners and their families and communities are counted, we need Census 2020 data collection to continue through October 31.

The House-passed COVID-19 bill (the HEROES Act) provided for the October 31 deadline, but this extension is missing from the Senate’s COVID-19 bill. We must ensure that the COVID relief package, under discussion this week, includes language that will extend the 2020 Census deadline to ensure an accurate count.

What you can do:

  1. Encourage your adult learners to complete the Census right away themselves and to promote Census completion in their communities, online (my2020census.gov), by phone (1-844-330-2020), or on paper. It’s the best way to ensure support, accountability, and political representation for the community and its members.
  2. Call your Senators this week, while they are debating the Senate COVID-19 relief bill.

The Census Counts campaign has set up a toll-free patch-through line at 1-888-374-4269. When you call, you’ll be asked to provide your zip code. You’ll hear a pre-recording with details on what to say, and then be patched through to your Senator’s office.

Here’s a script for what to say to the staffer who takes your call:

Hi, my name is _______ and I am your constituent from (City and State). I am calling to ask the Senator NOT to cut the 2020 Census short and to extend the reporting deadline so the Census Bureau has the time it needs to count everyone. A rushed census results in an inaccurate representation of the country. Thank you for your time. 

You can also ask the Senator to sign on to Senator Schatz’ bipartisan letter to leadership asking for the deadline extensions in the next coronavirus package. Senators who wish to sign on should contact Trelaine Ito in Senator Schatz’s office, trlaine_ito@schatz.senate.gov.

3. Share this information and encourage others to contact their Senators too. Census Counts is particularly interested in outreach to these four Senators:

  • Senator Richard Shelby in Alabama
  • Senator Dan Sullivan in Alaska
  • Senator Martha McSally in Arizona
  • Senator Susan Collins in Maine

However, everyone is encouraged to participate in this effort – every Senator is important, and every constituent voice counts!

Thank you for all you do to provide and promote opportunities, resources, and representation for our adult learners and their communities.

Census in Your Community: Interviews with Juvencio Rocha Peralta

Census in Your Community: Interviews with Juvencio Rocha Peralta

In these paired podcasts we speak with Juvencio Rocha Peralta, Executive Director of AMEXCAN (Asociacion de Mexicanos en Carolina del Norte / Association of Mexicans in North Carolina). Juvencio shares his experience as an integral member of a regional Complete Count Committee and his efforts to improve census completion rates of members of hard-to-count groups.

Listen to the podcast in Spanish

Listen to the podcast in English

AMEXCAN is a non-profit organization that works to promote the active participation of Mexicans and Latinos in their new communities and encourage the appreciation, understanding, and prosperity of the Mexican and Latino community through cultural, educational, leadership, health, and advocacy.

Census 2020: Current Response Rates and the Risk of an Undercount

Census 2020: Current Response Rates and the Risk of an Undercount

By Deborah Kennedy, president, National Coalition for Literacy, and
Mary Margaret Kraut, affiliated faculty, Union Institute and University

Here’s the good news: As of yesterday morning, the national self-response rate for the Census was 53.4 percent. According to the Census Bureau’s Self-Response Rankings website, the rate is above 60 percent in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. Los Alamos County in New Mexico has the highest rate of response by county at 73.8 percent, and North River, North Dakota has the highest rate of response by city at 100 percent.

These numbers are encouraging, but the data also shows some troubling trends. Table 1 provides comparative data on total response rates, including online, by phone, and on paper, for the Census tracts with the highest (top 20%) and lowest (bottom 20%) rates of self-response. [Note that the table specifies “population” or “household” to reflect the way the Census Bureau reports the data.] As the table indicates, the tracts in the bottom 20% contain substantially higher proportions of hard-to-count populations, including minorities, non-native English speakers, those living below the federal poverty line, and those with no household internet access, than the tracts with the highest response rates. The risk of an undercount for these populations is evident in the data.

The data in Table 1 represents the majority (95.45%) of households: those that have received Internet First and Internet Choice mailings. These two contact strategies take place where mail is delivered to the physical location of the housing unit.

  • In the Internet First contact strategy, a household receives a letter asking the respondent to go online to complete the Census.
  • In the Internet Choice strategy, a household receives a paper questionnaire along with the invitation letter; the Census Bureau uses this strategy in areas that it considers less likely to respond online.
  • In tracts where the Bureau recognizes at least 20% of households as needing “Spanish assistance,” Internet First and Internet Choice mailings are bilingual (Spanish and English).

To date, response rates for Internet Choice tracts are not as robust as those for Internet First tracts. As of April 23, the average response rate for Internet First tracts was about 4 points above the overall national rate, whereas the average response rate for Internet Choice tracts was about 6 points below the overall national rate. Table 2 provides a demographic comparison of the two types of tracts. The comparison shows the relatively higher proportion of hard-to-count populations in the Internet Choice tracts and demonstrates the risk of an undercount for these populations.

To gather information from households that have not responded, the Census Bureau conducts the Non-Response Follow-Up Operation (NRFU), in which Census enumerators visit households in person. Census Outreach [https://www.censusoutreach.org/census-timeline] summarizes the NRFU process this way:

  • If no one answers when an enumerator visits a household, a “Notice of Visit” will be left at the door. This notice will include an online response code to encourage households to self-respond.
  • After one unsuccessful attempt to contact a household, the Census Bureau will determine if the household can be counted using high quality federal administrative records. Households that do not meet this standard will receive additional visits from enumerators.
  • After the 3rd unsuccessful attempt, enumerators can ask nearby reliable “proxy” (for example, a landlord, neighbor, caregiver, letter carrier, or on-site utility worker) for details about the household. If there is no proxy available, enumerators will continue to visit the household up to 6 times.
  • After the 6th unsuccessful attempt, some special case households will still be eligible for additional visits through the end of October.

The 2020 Census Self-Response Operation will continue until October 31, 2020, and the Census Bureau now plans to conduct NRFU from August 11 through October 31 (these dates have been recently adjusted, and may change again depending on COVID-19 developments). The uncertainties associated with face-to-face interviews, particularly in the context of COVID-19 concerns and restrictions, make self-response a far more reliable way to ensure that all people are counted.

The hard-to-count populations that are at risk of being omitted from the Census count have substantial overlap with those who participate in, or could benefit from, adult education. These adults need to recognize the relationship between their participation in the 2020 Census and the availability of equitable federal funding for schools, roads, public assistance, and health services for themselves and their children. Such funding can give adult learners the opportunity for literacy instruction, classes to obtain a high school equivalency or diploma, English for non-native speaker classes, or community college courses to obtain a certificate required for employment. The commonality across all of these programs is for the community to receive its fair share of federal funds.

Adult education practitioners are well connected with the communities where hard-to-count populations reside, and as trusted community resources they can be influential. The challenge for them is to reach out actively to their adult learners in all Census tracts and use that influence to ensure that every individual is included in the 2020 Census count. 

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Resources:

To see current response rates and rankings, see the Rankings Dashboard

To see current response rates by state, county, and Census tract, see the Response Rates Map and the Census 2020 Hard to Count Map

For information on Internet First and Internet Choice contact strategies by state and Census tract, see the Census Bureau’s Mail Contact Strategies Viewer

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