Census Officials Outline Plans To Reach Black Population In 2020

The 2000 and 2010 census miscounted black people — the latter an undercount of approximately 2%.


Federal officials outlined their plans to get more black people to fill out the census next year. 

This week in Atlanta, they discussed their strategy to target the traditionally undercounted group.

The 2000 and 2010 census miscounted black people — the latter an undercount of approximately 2%. And the group is again at risk next year.

Austin Patrick is with the Carol H. Williams Agency. He’s working on a campaign with the Census Bureau to reach black Americans and other groups. 

He said some messages resonate, such as filling out the census to get federal money to improve communities.

The census determines $675 billion a year in federal funding. That’s money for programs such as Pell Grants, Head Start and Medicaid. The funding is also used for schools, hospitals and roads.

Other messages, Patrick said, don’t work as well. Such as filling out the form as a civic duty. 

“There is a great deal of disconnect, a great deal of mistrust, there’s a great deal of disappointment in our communities,” he said.

The census is mandated by the Constitution of the United States and has been conducted since 1790. There is a fine for not completing the form, though the Bureau said it’s not likely a person would be prosecuted.

“We have a hurdle of mistrust of government,” said Marilyn Stephens, assistant Atlanta regional census manager.

Stephens said relying on community organizations will be key to getting black people to fill out the census.

“We’re eliciting the assistance of our faith-based organizations,” she said.

The Bureau is also reaching out to schools, advocacy organizations and elected officials.

According to a study by the George Washington University, in fiscal year 2016, Georgia received more than $23 billion in federal funding for dozens of programs, including student loans, SNAP and the national school lunch program.

The census also determines U.S. Congressional Districts. After the 2010 census, Georgia gained one congressional seat, totaling 14.

Stephens also wants to target younger census takers. 

“We have a tremendous job in educating the millennial population about the importance of the Census and how it really relates to their every day well being,” she said.

The Census Bureau also wants to make sure that black immigrants know about the count. The campaign will focus on languages other than English to reach some Caribbean and African immigrants.

French and Haitian Creole are two of several languages that are new on the next year. The forms will be in 13 languages, including English.

For the first time, the census will ask for country of origin, along with race. For example, a person can check the ‘black’ race box and then also write that they’re Jamaican, Nigerian or Somali.

“People have pride in their history and culture,” said Patrick of the Carol H. Williams agency. He said it’s important to use different messaging among the Blacks. 

“We don’t treat the groups as monolithic,” he said.