Don’t Count on the Census

Jan 30, 2020

The 2020 census will make a huge imprint on the nation for a decade, from determining how much federal money goes to states to divvying up congressional seats and helping city planners figure out where to build schools. But experts warn this census is doomed to be inaccurate because of a poor rollout and a swirl of controversy over a citizenship question proposed by the Trump administration. 


We start with an overview of the challenges the census faced even before the citizenship question came into play. Soaring costs and hard-to-count communities prompted the Census Bureau to come up with high-tech solutions to “save” the census. But will they be enough?

Then we look at how two states are dealing with the prospect of an inaccurate count. On one hand, California is dedicating more than $180 million to funding grassroots efforts to educate the public, especially Latino communities that were put off by the citizenship controversy. On the other hand, in Texas, GOP legislators have scuttled a similar statewide initiative. 

We close with a look at how mass incarceration of African Americans is skewing the census count. In Wisconsin and other states, prisoners are counted in the districts where they serve time instead of where they come from. This has the effect of shifting political power away from black urban communities and to rural white ones.

Then we look at how two states are dealing with the prospect of an inaccurate count. On one hand, California is dedicating more than $180 million to funding grassroots efforts to