Giving Compass' Take:

• Local governments and community-based organizations have begun forming Complete Count Committees, which are coalitions that encourage census responses. For the 2020 Census, local groups are helping with data and technology skills to help get an accurate count. 

• How will the onset of more technology and data impact the 2020 Census? 

• Read about why philanthropy should engage in Census 2020.

The 2020 Census is less than a year away, and it’s facing new challenges that could result in an inaccurate count. The proposed inclusion of a citizenship question, the lack of comprehensive and unified messaging, and the new internet-response option could worsen the undercount of vulnerable and marginalized communities and deprive these groups of critical resources.

Local governments and community-based organizations have begun forming Complete Count Committees, coalitions of trusted community voices established to encourage census responses, to achieve a more accurate count in 2020. Local organizations with data and technology skills—like civic tech groups, libraries, technology training organizations, and data intermediaries—can harness their expertise to help these coalitions achieve a complete count.

The proposed citizenship question, currently being challenged in court, would likely suppress the count of immigrants and households in immigrant communities in the US. Though federal law prohibits the Census Bureau from disclosing individual-level data, even to other agencies, people may still be skeptical about the confidentiality of the data or generally distrust the government. Acknowledging these fears is important for organizations partnering in outreach to vulnerable communities.

Another potential hurdle is that, for the first time, the Census Bureau will encourage people to complete their census forms online (though answering by mail or phone will still be options). Though a high tech census could be more cost-effective, the digital divide compounded by the underfunding of the Census Bureau that limited initial testing of new methods and outreach could worsen the undercount.

To combat these threats to a complete count, organizations already operating at the intersection of data and community engagement can serve as trusted messengers about the importance of the census and lend support to local planning and outreach.

Read the full article about data technology can help with 2020 census by Olivia Arena and Kathryn L.S. Pettit at Urban Institute.