Friday, February 15, 2019

Adding “Citizenship Question” to 2020 Census Will Hurt New Mexico’s Children, Families

Albuquerque, N.M. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the Trump administration can add a “Citizenship Question” to the 2020 census. A hearing is expected to be held in April. Concerns are being raised that inclusion of this question will increase the already high risk of a Census undercount of New Mexico’s population. 

The decennial count helps the federal government decide how many billions each state receives per year and whether a congressional seats needs to be added to a state, in case there is population growth, or a seat must be removed if the population decreased.

“The Constitution is clear! It says to count all persons –not all citizens,” said Oriana Sandoval, CEO for the Center for Civic Policy. “We only get one chance every ten years to get this right. The Census must be done fairly and accurately”.

A question about U.S. citizenship status has not been asked of all households by the Census Bureau in close to 70 years. Inclusion of this question in the 2020 census will have disastrous consequences for New Mexico’s economy, as New Mexico would stand to lose billions in federal aid that are vital to fund essential public services like Medicaid, SNAP, and CHIP. 

“The ‘citizenship question’ is a self-imposed hurdle to obtaining an accurate count as the question will cause people to refuse to respond from fear that the information could be used against them,” Sandoval said. The lower court of New York ruled correctly against Trump’s unlawful attempt to intimidate and provoke an undercount in our communities. The Supreme Court must affirm the decision”.

Currently, New Mexico ranks number one for hard-to-count states. A number of factors contribute to this low ranking: many residents speak languages other than English, move frequently, live in hard to reach rural areas, or worry about privacy or distrust the government. During the 2000 census, N.M. experienced an undercount of 1.94% of our total population, leading to a loss of billions of dollars over a ten year period.

“Our state loses approximately $3,000 for each person who is not counted in our communities. Thus multiplied out over the 10-year period until the 2030 Census, will result in $30,000 loss for each person missed,” Sandoval explained. “This is money our families cannot afford to lose.”

As a result of the lessons learned from Census 2000 undercount, the 2010 undercount in New Mexico was significantly reduced to under 0.3% due to a collaborative effort between the Department of Finance and Administration, UNM’s Geospatial and Population Studies, Bureau of Business and Economic Research, the Earth Data Analysis Center, and local governments. This combined effort identified 130,000 housing units missing from the Census Bureau Master Address File –30,000 of these on Albuquerque’s westside alone.

“Despite the recent gains in accurate counting, the U.S. Census Bureau is likely to be underfunded for the 2020 Census and its move towards the use of an online survey also proves to be a challenge in NM were nearly 30 percent of our population does not have a reliable connection to internet –greatly increasing the chance for a significant population undercount in NM,” Sandoval said. “It is up to our state government to fill the gaps and ensure we continue preparation for an accurate count come 2020.”

Currently, N.M. receives almost $8 billion in federal aid each year based on data gathered through the decennial census.