Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Census using more satellite imagery to find rural minorities of color, who are historically reluctant to respond to it

The Census Bureau plans to use more satellite imaging to better count rural people of color. "The agency is using aerial images of rural communities and hard-to-reach areas to verify addresses and determine where to send workers to ensure everyone is counted," Russell Contreras reports for The Associated Press. "Satellites and planes take photos, and bureau employees compare the housing captured in the images to digital maps from the last census, in 2010. It takes a fraction of the time needed by workers in the field."

The agency has been using the geographic information system technology since 2013, and has been double- and triple-checking its work to ensure accuracy, Contreras reports.

The high-tech solution is a response to a problem partly caused by the bureau's high-tech plans: people will be encouraged to fill out forms online in 2020, and census workers will be sent door-to-door mostly as backups. But rural residents are far less likely to have broadband, and therefore will have a harder time filling out the forms online, Contreras reports. That could lead to undercounting, and rural areas losing government funding for programs.

Also, some areas with heavy African American, Hispanic or Native American populations are historically reluctant to respond to the census. Compliance among Hispanic-heavy areas will also likely decrease if the controversial citizenship question is added to the census, a question the Supreme Court will decide tomorrow.

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