ACTION ALERT: Act now to save and protect critical Census data!

Written by: Sarah Hughes
Date Posted: August 3, 2018

We need you to make your voice heard and protect critical data and funding for Colorado kids!

A recent decision by the U.S. Commerce Department threatens to undercount Colorado children in the 2020 Census, with dire consequences for kids and families. When kids aren’t counted in the census, Colorado loses out on millions of dollars in federal funding for the programs that help kids and families thrive. And because the census is only conducted once every 10 years, the impact of an undercount would harm Colorado kids for the next decade.

That’s what makes this recent development so concerning: the Commerce Department has announced it will add an untested, unnecessary question about citizenship status to the 2020 Census questionnaire that will go to every household in the country. Experts anticipate that adding this question will discourage many families from filling out their census forms, undercounting Colorado children and jeopardizing funding for critical programs like Head Start, Medicaid and the National School Lunch program. Simply put, an inaccurate census count would be detrimental to Colorado kids for the next decade.

The federal government needs to hear from you on this issue. The Commerce Department is seeking public comment in the Federal Register on the addition of the citizenship question. Please make your voice heard and join us in submitting a comment urging the Commerce Department to remove this harmful question.

The deadline to submit comments is August 7th. You can speak up for a fair and accurate census count in three easy steps:

  • Step 1: Copy the sample comments below.
  • Step 2: Click here to access the Federal Register.
  • Step 3: Paste the sample comments into the comment box. Feel free to tailor the comments to reflect your unique perspective on why this issue matters. Once you have entered your information and completed the form, click “Submit Comment.”

Other Census Bureau surveys already collect data on citizenship status; adding this question to the 2020 Census is unnecessary and undermines the accuracy of vitally important data. Three simple steps and a few minutes is all it takes to make your voice heard on behalf of Colorado kids—and to help ensure that Colorado isn’t deprived of funding for important programs like Medicaid, child care assistance and the National School Lunch program for the next decade.

If you have any questions about this issue or would like support in submitting comments, please feel free to reach out to Sarah Hughes, Vice President of Research, at sarah@coloradokids.org.

SAMPLE COMMENT TEXT TO COPY AND PASTE:

Ms. Jennifer Jessup

Departmental Paperwork Clearance Officer

Department of Commerce

Room 6616

14th and Constitution Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20230

RE: Comments on Proposed Information Collection on 2020 Census, Docket No. USBC-2018-0005

Dear Ms. Jessup,

I write to respectfully offer comments on the 2020 Census proposed information collection. Specifically, I urge the Department of Commerce to remove the citizenship question from the 2020 Census form, as it will jeopardize the accuracy of the census in all communities—an outcome that will harm Colorado children for the next 10 years.

Ensuring every child in Colorado is counted in the 2020 Census is essential. Census-derived data direct federal funding to programs and resources that help kids and families thrive, and child advocates depend on census data to monitor trends affecting children in our communities. Adding an untested and unnecessary question about citizenship status to the census questionnaire that goes to every household in the country will discourage participation and result in an inaccurate count of our nation’s children.

Young children are already more likely to be missed by the census than any other age group, and children of color are also at higher risk of being undercounted. The addition of a question about citizenship will only exacerbate the undercount of Colorado’s children—with dire consequences for kids. Every year, more than $8 billion in federal funds are allocated to Colorado and its localities based on census data, either directly or through census population estimates and census surveys that in turn rely on the Decennial Census. Programs including Head Start, the National School Lunch Program, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, special education grants and child care assistance all depend on census-derived data to accurately allocate funding. When children aren’t counted in the census, our communities lose resources for these critical programs that help remove barriers to opportunity in all areas of a child’s life.

The weight of scientific evidence indicates that a question on citizenship status will undermine a successful count of our nation’s people, particularly among families who have immigrated to the U.S. In Colorado, one in four children lives in an immigrant family. Although the Commerce Department has failed to conduct of a rigorous evaluation of the impact the citizenship question could have on response rates, Census Bureau researchers noted an unprecedented level of confidentiality concerns and reluctance to participate in surveys among immigrant communities, even prior to the addition of this untested question. I am concerned that the addition of the citizenship question in the current political climate will discourage participation among thousands of Colorado families, threatening the accuracy of important census data and underfunding essential programs for the next decade.

Finally, the collection of data on citizenship status through the 2020 Census is duplicative and unnecessary. Citizenship data are already available at the block group level through the American Community Survey. The administration’s stated goal of obtaining citizenship data at the census block level is not worth jeopardizing the accuracy of census data on which the nation will rely for the next 10 years.

The groundswell of opposition to the citizenship question has included more than 160 Republican and Democratic mayors, six former directors of the Census Bureau and two former Commerce Secretaries from Republican and Democratic administrations, as well as 171 civil and human rights groups, more than 600 faith leaders, more than 120 of members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and many others representing a diversity of political ideologies and communities. For all the reasons discussed above, I join this diverse group in strongly opposing the addition of the citizenship question. I respectfully urge the Department of Commerce to remove the proposed citizenship question from the data collection forms.

Sarah Hughes

About Sarah Hughes

Sarah Hughes is the Research Director for the Colorado Children’s Campaign. In this role, she leads the organization’s research and data efforts – including the development and publication of the annual KIDS COUNT in Colorado! report. Prior to joining the Children’s Campaign, Sarah worked in PR and communications, as well as working directly with children and adolescents in various capacities. She holds a Master of Social Work with a specialization in Advocacy, Leadership, and Social Change from the University of Illinois and a B.S. in Business and Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis.