Monday, September 17, 2018

Study: Rural areas hard to count in census will lose funding

Rural areas are likely to be undercounted in the 2020 census and may lose federal funding for needed programs, says a study by the George Washington University Institute of Public Policy.

In an effort to save money, the Census Bureau will try to get people to fill out forms online and use door-to-door census workers mostly as backups. "Many people in already hard-to-count populations do not have internet access, meaning they are even less likely to get counted, said noted demographer Bill O'Hare," Susan Milligan reports for U.S. News and World Report. "Since federal dollars are allocated according to formulas based on census data, that could mean substantial losses to rural states that shared $30 billion in rural-targeted programs in fiscal year 2016."

The census was going to test its new system earlier this year in four locations: Providence, R.I., rural West Virginia, Puerto Rico, and tribal lands in Washington state. But only Providence ended up getting the dry run, which means the bureau doesn't have data on how its new system will do in areas that are rural, tribal, and/or mostly Spanish-speaking.

Some worry that a proposed new question that asks respondents if they are citizens could scare off Latinx residents. "While census forms, by law, cannot be shared with law enforcement or immigration, state officials and advocates believe the question is designed to undercount Hispanics," Milligan reports.

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