Explained: The Risks Facing the 2020 Census

Why some experts are very concerned that Census 2020 will fail the democracy that depends on it.

February 6, 2018, 7:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


A video explainer produced by Vox begins with the assumption that the decennial census is the catalyst for many of the processes at the foundation of U.S. democracy. That fact sets the stakes for more expert voices raising concerns that the 2020 Census is at risk of failing its intended purposes.

According to the video, the story of the 2020 Census begins with the 2010 Census, which ballooned in cost to a record and provoked the ire of cost-cutting congressional representatives, which set a cap on the amount of funding the 2020 Census can receive from the federal government. The problem with the cap, according to the video, is that it's getting harder and more expensive to make an accurate count in some parts of the country.

The video also tackles the controversial addition of a question that asks about citizenship, which could further lower participation rates.

This isn't the first alarm sounded about the possibility that Census 2020 is doomed to failure. The NAACP has sued the Trump Administration on the grounds that the latter is not making good-faith efforts to reach "hard-to-count" populations, and an article for Brookings raises similar points about Census 2020. See Planetizen's complete Census 2020 coverage here.

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