“What that means for the next census is it’s really important who the presidential administration is and how much they are committed to getting an accurate count.”
A new analysis of the 2020 census finds that Latino, Black and Native American populations were statistically significantly undercounted.
Nationwide, the Latino community was undercounted by about 5%, a big increase from roughly 1.5% in 2010. Black Americans were undercounted by just over 3%, and Native Americans living on reservations by between 5% and 6%.
Luc Schuster, executive director of Boston Indicators, noted census data has a range of uses – from drawing political boundaries and allocating congressional seats, to distributing billions of dollars in federal funding that goes to states and localities.
“And it’s used by researchers like us,” said Schuster. “Any research that tries to understand big challenges facing our communities, trends, population changes tends to use census data. And if we don’t have a good accurate count, it can really lead to a skewing in any of those domains.”
Schuster added this data is national, and state-level data on undercounts and overcounts are expected later in the year.
But he noted that if Massachusetts’ undercount matches the national one, that would mean the Census missed 46,000 Latino residents of the Commonwealth and almost 23,000 Black residents.
Schuster said a number of factors appear to have contributed to the undercounts – such as the Trump administration’s failed attempt to add a citizenship question, which he says heightened levels of fear in communities that already have distrust of the government.
He said census takers were also initially given more time than normal due to COVID to reach out to historically undercounted populations, but the Trump administration cut that off abruptly, before they had time for the last round of outreach.
“What that means for the next census is it’s really important who the presidential administration is and how much they are committed to getting an accurate count of all residents nationwide,” said Schuster. “And making sure that they have the resources to do that final round of door-to-door canvassing, to make sure we’re capturing the very hardest-to-reach populations.”
In addition to BIPOC communities, the trend of undercounting kids younger than age 5 continued as well. White and Asian populations were overcounted, as were homeowners, while renters were undercounted.