In every decennial census, there is a risk that households that mistrust government will choose not to self-respond. However, because the 2020 Census is going to be completed online for the first time ever, and because of the federal government's failed attempt to add a question on citizenship, the risks to the 2020 Census are greater than any recent census.
Local governments, nonprofits, business groups, faith-based organizations, individuals and others can partner together to surmount the risks:
The First Online Census: In most areas of New York, the Census Bureau will mail a package to households in March 2020 which includes information about the count. In areas where most households have internet access, these packages will include a unique ID and web URL and will ask the household to complete their questionnaire online. In areas where internet is less available, the package will include a paper questionnaire. It is critical to inform households about this change to enumeration and that they have access to a computer – whether at home or a community location – to complete their questionnaire.
Counting the Hard-to-Count: New York State has more than 4 million “Hard-to-Count” residents – more than every state except California and Texas. These are New Yorkers who are not expected to self-respond to the 2020 Census without proper outreach from trusted community members and organizations. Based on previous response rates, some demographic groups – like individuals who move frequently, families with children under 5, and college students – are much more likely to be hard-to-count than others. More troublingly, the Census Bureau has found that only 33% of the nation is familiar with the count. Because households familiar with the census are more likely to self-respond, it’s important for ample outreach to occur.
Different Ways of Being Counted: Some special areas – like rural areas or those with large numbers of seasonal homes – will not receive a package via the mail in March 2020 but will instead be visited by a Census Bureau employee who will hand-deliver a package of materials, including a paper questionnaire. These households will be counted through the Bureau’s “Update/Leave” process. These households need to be informed that this visit is coming and be prepared to complete their questionnaire once it is received.
How Can I Get Involved?
- Join or Create a Complete Count Committee Complete Count Committees will be the drivers of census outreach. Complete Count Committees can focus on a geographic area or a demographic group and should include all relevant stakeholders. Work within your community to figure out the best approach to identify and reach your hard-to-count residents.
- Share Census Bureau Job Openings The Census Bureau is hiring staff for the 2020 count and it needs help finding applicants! See more at https://2020census.gov/en/jobs
- Talk to Your Networks About the Census Trusted voices are the most effective messengers in census outreach. As it nears, talk to those who trust you and make sure that they’re aware of the upcoming count and plan to participate.
The New York State Complete Count Commission held many public events across the state to gain public input and hear from Census experts and advocates. Each meeting of the Commission was open to the public and webcast. The events have featured detailed presentations to the Commission by various entities involved in the census, as well as testimony from advocates, and the general public. Additional events may be scheduled at a later date.
March 4, 2019: Rochester City Council Chambers, Rochester, NY
March 11, 2019: Hostos Community College, Bronx, NY
March 20, 2019: SUNY Sullivan, Loch Sheldrake, NY
April 12, 2019: Suffolk County Legislature, Smithtown, NY
April 18, 2019: Waterfront Elementary/PS 95 Auditorium, Buffalo, NY
April 26, 2019: Utica State Office Building, Utica, NY
May 1, 2019: Queens Borough Hall, Kew Gardens, NY
May 7, 2019: Rockefeller Institute of Government, Albany, NY
May 22, 2019: Adirondack Park Agency, Ray Brook, NY
July 24, 2019: Binghamton University, Vestal, NY
July 25, 2019: Westchester: New York Power Authority, White Plains, NY
July 31, 2019: Brooklyn Borough Hall
October 8, 2019: Rockefeller Institute of Government, Albany, NY
Complete Count Committees (CCCs) are the major vehicle for planning and implementing local, targeted efforts that address the special needs of your community. Successful complete count committees include a diverse range of organizations and have representation from each major racial or ethnic group within your community, as well as representatives from other hard-to-count groups. These committees will motivate their community to self-respond; educate the public about the importance of the census; inform their community of census activities and timelines; involve the community in awareness activities; and, ultimately, increase the response rate to the 2020 Census.
Community-based organizations are vital in ensuring a fair and accurate count. Your trusted voices can teach residents about the census and your unique knowledge about the special populations in their community can increase participation in the census. Leaders and representatives from education, business, organized labor, religious and service organizations can help identify and engage historically undercounted groups in their community.
Any organization with community ties can help ensure that every New Yorker is included in the 2020 Census and that the final count is fair and accurate. Your organization can assist by identifying and educating hard-to-count populations about the 2020 Census.
As Census Day approaches, host events with your local Complete Count Committee to help hard-to-count populations complete their census form online.
Historically, some populations are very difficult to count accurately and are disproportionately missed by the census, even when their addresses are in the address file. This impacts the accuracy of the final data. Examples of frequently missed – or “hard-to-count” - populations include, urban and rural low-income households, children under 5, immigrants and single parent households.
You can help your community by volunteering at programs that work with youth, seniors or other populations to encourage them to participate and assist with special needs.
One of the main goals of the 2020 Census is maximizing the number of people who “self-respond,” or complete their household’s census form without requiring costly follow-up from a Census Bureau enumerator. Maximizing self-response will not only reduce the total cost of the survey, but will increase the accuracy of the data.
Community-based organizations can support an accurate census count by identifying the hard-to-count populations in their community and educating these groups about the importance of participating in the census and completing the form fully and accurately.
Potential Activities Your organizations should develop targeted outreach strategies to urge hard-to-count groups to participate in the census. This list is not exhaustive. When identifying the best activities to engage in, your organization should consider its strengths and the needs of the populations with which it has the strongest relationships.
- Engage with the state Complete Count Committee (CCC) and your local CCC. If your community doesn’t have a local CCC, encourage your local government(s) to help form one.
- The 2020 Census will rely more than ever before on computer-based surveys for the count instead of the paper forms it has used in the past. This new approach will be a challenge for people who have limited access to computers, digital devices, and broadband internet service, and events that help connect these individuals with others who can assist them in accessing and navigating the technology will be important in ensuring an accurate count.
- Educate your community about the importance of the Census and an accurate count and dispel myths about the security of census data by hosting a forum in your community or for your organization’s members and by including information about the census in communications (e.g. newsletters, mailings, etc.) to your stakeholders.
- Recruit organizations that work with your organization to help engage in census outreach and to join your local and state complete count committees.
As you plan activities, consider working collaboratively with your local CCC and with other organizations in your community as much as possible. This will maximize your impact and get word out about the upcoming census to a larger and more diverse audience.