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New research suggests that the 2020 Census may have undercounted Black Americans

New research suggests that the 2020 Census may have undercounted Black Americans

Two new studies suggest that the 2020 Census may have undercounted Black people at a significantly higher rate than usual, raising concerns about whether minorities could lose out on fair representation and funding over the next 10 years.

The Census Bureau has yet to release data that will allow comparisons of 2020 Census results with earlier estimates to assess the surveys validity. The black population in the United States could have been undercounted at a rate up to three times higher than in 2010. However, comparing its 2020 projections to 2010 data, the simulation shows that the countrys Black population could well have risen by tenfold. And a second study claims that the undercount of Black children may be as much as 10 times higher than ten years ago.

The higher undercounts, if the results are confirmed, may have profound consequences on a range of federally funded services, including Medicaid and Medicare, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), highway planning and construction, Section 8 housing vouchers and Head Start, among other programs.

Marc Morial, president and chief executive of the National Urban League, who sued the bureau last year to prevent the count from ending early, said that this may be the nations biggest undercount since 1960 or 1950.

Even in the best of times, the census tends to overcount some populations and undercount others, with the highest underrepresentations among minorities, renters, low-income people, and children. The 2020 Census was tumultuous, with the Trump administrations efforts to include a citizenship question, the coronavirus epidemic, natural disasters, and legal battles over the count s end date. All of this raised doubts among experts about whether the undercounts would be more significant this time.

Representative Brenda Lawrence, a Michigan Democrat, said it was 'a perfect storm for an undercount on several levels'. Many people in poor and minority communities are already reluctant to answer questions about their household members, a problem that was compounded by the additional challenges, she said. Im hopeful that the official numbers arent as low as those that are being released by the analysts, but the figures that weve seen from these analysts are alarming, he added.

The simulation, conducted by Connie Citro, a senior researcher at the Committee on National Statistics at The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, considers three possibilities for settling fewer people who checked Black than no other race, on the basis of the bureau's December low, middle, or high independent population estimates. Citro estimates an undercount of between 3.24 percent and 7.25 percent, compared with a net undercurrent of 2.3 percent for that group in 2010.

For people who checked Black in combination with other races, Citros analysis found a range between 0 percent overcount and 4.36 percent undercount, compared with 1.1 percent less than that group in 2010.

The full extent of the surveys undercounts and overcount will be revealed when the bureau releases its modified race file, a tally that reclassifies people who marked some other race into Black and non-Black categories next year. A post-enumeration study, conducted by the bureau after each decennial census, will further assess the 2020 count's accuracy.

In the interim, Citro looked at how the bureau reallocated people who filled out some other race alone in 2010, and applied those ratios to the 2020 Census race and ethnicity data, which came out in August, adjusting for the fact that the number of people marking that category increased in 2020.

While her analysis is a simulation, Citro said, It provides... backed up by other clues.

Citro said, referring to the challenges of 2020, that it would be surprising if this census didn't have more errors than 2010 and 2000. They did an outstanding job with the hand they were dealt, but it wasnt a good hand to be dealt, he added.

The bureau said it is too early to draw conclusions about the surveys validity. The data to do that are just not available, said Eric Jensen, the bureaus senior technical expert for demographic analysis. Any attempt to do so at this moment would be a nexus.

In addition, Jensen stated, We want to be extremely vigilant and make sure that we are using 2020 data for that process.

A separate report released last month by the American Statistical Association stated that its experts did not have enough information to assess the 2020 Census' quality.

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