1. There Is a Significant Risk of Undercounting People in “Hard to Count” Communities.
The 2010 Census missed an estimated 16 million people, disproportionately people of color, from “hard-to-count” (HTC) areas.3 HTC communities are areas where fewer than 73% of the residents returned their Census forms in 2010. Almost a quarter of New Jersey’s population lives in HTC areas. People of color, low-income individuals, young children, immigrants, transient people, and those with severe fear or distrust of the government are most likely to go uncounted. At the same time, the 2010 Census counted 36,000 people more than once, a disproportionate number of whom were white.4
New Jersey has HTC areas in 18 out of its 21 counties. There’s a good chance that if we don’t act now, New Jersey will be undercounted.
In the 2010 Census count, Black people were the second largest racial or ethnic group undercounted, only behind the American Indian and Alaskan Native population. As a result of undercounting, Black communities were denied access to critical resources. New Jersey is eighth in the nation for its number of African-Americans living in HTC tracts (670,018)5; and fifth in the nation for its percentage of African-Americans living in HTC tracts (51%)6.
This list describes the full and final response rate of the top Black/ African-American hard-to-count New Jersey cities in 2010.7 The undercount was severe in certain areas.
Newark and Jersey City, New Jersey’s two largest cities, rank first and second in the nation for their percentages of African-Americans living in HTC tracts (Newark – 96.1%, Jersey City – 92.9%), and rank third and second in the nation for their percentages of Hispanics living in HTC tracts (Newark – 93.1%, Jersey City – 93.3%).8
These same communities often have the highest poverty rates and are most in need of essential services. Without special, intentional, and targeted outreach efforts, hundreds of thousands of our residents in communities most in need of resources will go uncounted in 2020 and for the next 10 years.
This chart shows the New Jersey cities with the highest numbers of Black residents living in HTC areas.9
2. There Are Two Additional Challenges: A Potential Citizenship Question and Digitization
Citizenship Question: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that, for the first time in over 50 years, the 2020 Census would ask the citizenship status of every person living in the country. This controversial citizenship question has caused a lot of concern, especially among immigrants. While federal law prohibits your personal information from being shared, even with another government agency, many are understandably still worried.
Digitization: 80% of households will receive postcards urging residents to complete the Census online. While this may be convenient for some people, it will present challenges to many who have limited or no Internet access, or who are uncomfortable with providing information online.