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California’s role in the 2020 Census

What you must know about the U.S. national headcount

In April, the Supreme Court will hear whether the administration can add the question to the census. The question will be part of a nationwide census test on July 1, 2019, to approximately 480,000 households.

The trial is expected by advocates who said the question “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” will scare away immigrant citizens from participating in the national body count that is used to distribute critical funding to California’s education systems, social welfare programs, and overall infrastructure that makes California what it is today.

“To conclude otherwise and let Secretary Ross’s decision stand would undermine the proposition — central to the rule of law — that ours is a ‘government of laws, and not of men,’ ” Furman wrote, quoting one of the country’s founding fathers, John Adams.

Although this decision will be appealed back and forth between judges, the California Complete Count Office released plans to seek out qualified teams to conduct Census 2020 outreach at the regional level.

What is the 2020 Census?

The U.S. Census Bureau is the leading source of information on the nation’s people, places, and economy, providing data about our country’s population size and growth as well as detailed portraits of the changing characteristics of our communities. The Census Bureau, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, was created to address language in the Constitution on America’s need to count its population. America’s founders recognized that this information was needed to effectively serve its people.

The data collected as part of the first count in 1790 — a six-question survey — expanded in the following years to include information on the economy, immigration, migration, and agriculture. One of the most important ways all of this information has been used is to determine the apportionment of the seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The count of the U.S. population — carried out every 10 years — is called the Decennial Census of Population and Housing.

During the decennial census, the Census Bureau contacts every household, asking questions such as:

  • How many people live or stay in this house, apartment, or mobile home?
  • What is the name of the person who owns this house, apartment, or mobile home?
  • How old is the person who owns this house, apartment, or mobile home? When is his or her birthday?

Beyond the Decennial Census In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt signed a law establishing the Census Bureau as a permanent agency that would collect vital information and develop statistics representing the American people, including where and how they live. Today, the Census Bureau conducts three censuses — the decennial census and the twice-per decade Economic Census and Census of Governments — as well as more than 130 different surveys.

Some of these surveys are:

  • American Community Survey. Data from this annual survey include up-to-date information on the social and economic needs of communities across the nation. Results may be used to decide where new schools and hospitals should be built.
  • Current Population Survey. This monthly survey of households provides data on how Americans work — including whether they have a job, the types of jobs held by different kinds of people, the hours’ people work in different jobs, and salary information.
  • Survey of Business Owners. This survey collects information every five years about U.S. businesses and business owners, including economic and demographic characteristics like business size and industry, and business owner gender, ethnicity, race, and veteran status.

These statistics help government officials make important decisions so that they can do the following:

  • Distribute more than $675 billion in federal funds to local, state, and tribal governments each year.
  • States and communities use census data to allocate funding for neighborhood improvements, public health, education, transportation, and more.
  • Understand where community services are needed and plan to implement them. This includes services for the elderly, new roads and schools, job training centers, and more.
  • Determine how the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are divided among the 50 states and make decisions about redistricting.

Critical funding is at stake for millions of Californian who contribute to the eight largest economies of the word. Besides the new census question posing a politically disadvantageous future, it highlights one Administration’s most recent tactic to systematically oppress the ethnic representation of the American People.

WHAT ELSE IS DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS CENSUS?

It’s the first one ever you can fill out online. You can also respond by phone and paper will be available, but it’ll primarily be online. Nearly every household in the country will receive an invitation through the mail to respond to the census in the mail.

IS AN ONLINE CENSUS A PRIVACY ISSUE?

The switch to online has some worried about privacy and access to a computer or internet. In L.A. County, 371,516 households (11.3 percent) do not have a computer, and 645,718 households (19.6 percent) do not have an internet subscription.

WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE ACCESS TO A COMPUTER OR THE INTERNET TO FILL OUT THE CENSUS?

L.A. County and the City of L.A. are planning to have census action kiosks, which would be physical locations with regular office hours found in a public place to access information about the census or fill it out. A subcommittee talked about how to identify potential locations at a meeting.

WHEN CAN I START USING A KIOSK?

The goal is to have them operational by March 2020.

WHO COULD POSSIBLY BE MISSING FROM THE COUNT?

People who are hard to interview, hard to locate, hard to persuade and hard to contact are considered hard-to-count populations, by the Census Bureau. Here is a list of a few groups California has identified as hard to count:

  • Households without broadband internet
  • Nonfamily households (homemates/roommates)
  • Renters
  • Native American and tribal populations
  • Crowded/multi-generational households
  • Immigrants/Foreign born
  • Adults who are not high school graduates
  • Low-income households
  • Unemployed
  • Children under five

BUT L.A. COUNTY IS PRETTY GOOD AT COUNTING EVERYONE, RIGHT?

Sorry, no. L.A. County is considered the hardest-to-count county in the United States of America There are 88 cities from Lancaster to Long Beach and the South Los Angeles region is known to have a low response score for the census. That means that the area has a low census mail return rate.

L.A. County is also hard to count because of its diversity of languages and immigrant populations and its non-traditional housing situations like back houses or basements.