With the census in peril, what will it take to right the ship?

Anna Challet, New America Media | 8/31/2017, 5:58 a.m.

“The window of opportunity to right this ship is closing fast,” says Lowenthal. But, she says, “Congress can demonstrate leadership by adjusting the budget cuts upward in advance starting this fall for the next three years.”

The lack of adequate funding has already had real consequences, says Arturo Vargas, the executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund.

The Census Bureau failed to complete a Spanish-language test census that was planned for Puerto Rico, and is also failing to test and implement methods for more accurately counting people in remote and rural areas.

The agency also won’t be testing certain local outreach and messaging strategies to get people to complete their census forms, Vargas says.

Outreach strategies have become more crucial among some marginalized communities. “We know that there is increasingly a climate of fear among immigrant communities and immigrant households,” he says, due to the current political atmosphere and an uptick in anti-immigrant rhetoric under the Trump administration.

“We have seen immigrant families opting out of participating in programs in which they have any kind of contact with government, including health care programs and school lunch programs,” says Vargas. “As a result we believe it will be even more difficult to encourage these immigrant populations to participate” in the census.

Indeed, it’s groups like “people of color, low-income families, people with disabilities, and limited English proficient individuals” who would be most affected by an inadequately funded census, according to John C. Yang, the executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice. “Any gap in testing and any gap in discovering deficiencies” in methodology, he says, would have the greatest impact on these communities.