People For the American Way

The Progressive Happy Hour: The Fight for a Fair and Accurate Census

News and Analysis
The Progressive Happy Hour: The Fight for a Fair and Accurate Census

The importance of the census is far reaching and having accurate data is critical to protecting equity and civil rights. The census is used by local, state, and federal agencies and non-governmental organizations to determine funding for health care, education, labor, and much more. It is an important tool for researchers and it is used to redraw congressional districts. Only through accurate data can we accomplish equal representation for all Americans in our democracy.

In the March 6 episode of “The Progressive Happy Hour,” cohosts Drew Courtney and Cici Battle talk to Beth Lynk, the Census Counts campaign director for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, about the ways that census data can disproportionately harm communities of color, low-income people and LGBTQ+ people.

She explains in the podcast, “An example of undercounting communities occurred in Tucson in 2010. They had an undercount of over 300,000 people in the city, which resulted in having less access to health care funding, education funding, and fewer school lunches.”

Lynk also emphasized that the consequences of undercounting in the census will impact the entire community for at least 10 years until the next census in 2020.

In March of 2018, the Trump administration added a citizenship question to the census, which risks an undercounting of immigrant populations. “Hearing about it through a lens of concern and fear, the role of organizers and leaders is to say this is important for our representation and power long term. We need to make our communities safe because it is really critical,” said Lynk. The Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of the question this summer.

Moving forward, Lynk says the best way for activists to help is to educate their communities—particularly communities most in danger of being undercounted—about the census organizing education events and other opportunities for people to ask questions. In Congress, Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.,have introduced the 2020 Census Improving Data and Enhanced Accuracy (IDEA) Act to help ensure that any proposed changes are properly researched and tested.

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