How many people of color did the 2020 census miss? COVID makes it harder to tell
A final round of door knocking for a follow-up survey is now set to last until early 2022, raising concerns about whether the bureau can determine which groups were undercounted in the 2020 census.
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Some households in the U.S. may get another visit about the 2020 census soon. Yes, the count is over, but the Census Bureau is still trying to determine how accurate it was. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang explains.
HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: In the last months of 2021 and in early 2022, get ready for door-knocks about the count of 2020.
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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Hi, I'm a census taker.
WANG: Some of those workers you've maybe seen in ads or in person may be back. Last year's census was upended by the pandemic and interference from former President Donald Trump's administration. And now the Census Bureau is preparing for a final round of interviews with some households for a follow-up survey that determines how many people and homes were missed and which groups were miscounted.
JERI GREEN: We know that people of color, immigrant populations are likely to be uncounted.
WANG: Jeri Green is a former senior adviser for civic engagement at the Census Bureau who's concerned the census may have again undercounted Black people and Latinos, as well as Native Americans who live on reservations, while overcounting people who identify as white but not Latino.
GREEN: This census is really a critical turning point.
WANG: And the results of the follow-up survey are factored into how much federal money local communities get for the next 10 years. Green says the results also help set the stage for 2030.
GREEN: It's a turning point for how future censuses are going to be conducted.
WANG: Conducting interviews in person for this Post-Enumeration Survey - or what the bureau calls the PES for short - started last year but was interrupted by COVID-19.
GREEN: Typically, the PES is done right after the census so that people can remember who was in the household on census day.
BOB LEIBOWITZ: It's a little more challenging for our people to go out and conduct the survey.
WANG: Bob Leibowitz is a Census Bureau survey technician in the New York region, where many households have census fatigue.
LEIBOWITZ: They're not ready to see another census person come and knock at the door.
ROBERT SANTOS: It is bad timing in the middle of the pandemic, and it's going to lead to a problem that I worry about very much.
WANG: Robert Santos is the president of the American Statistical Association and President Biden's pick for the next Census Bureau director. Santos spoke with NPR before his April nomination and said he's worried that because of the pandemic...
SANTOS: There will be a huge chunk of individuals and households that do not participate in both.
WANG: Both the census and this Post-Enumeration Survey. And that could make the survey results that are expected next year less useful. It depends on who answers the door-knocks this November to February.
Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News.
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