POLITICS

Black Americans Are More Doubtful About Participating In The Census, Survey Finds

The research underscores the challenges the Census Bureau faces in getting certain demographic groups to respond to the decennial survey.

Black Americans are roughly twice as likely as their white counterparts to express doubts about participating in the 2020 census, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center released Friday

A combined 26% of Black respondents said in the survey that they might not, probably would not, or definitely would not participate in the 2020 census. Twenty-one percent of Hispanics said the same, compared to 12% of white Americans. (The survey results may actually understate Americans’ skepticism: The kinds of people most likely to have doubts about answering the Census are probably also less likely to participate in surveys like this one.)

People who make less than $30,000 a year were also more likely than higher-earning Americans to express doubts about participating in the census. 

Overall, 84% of Americans said they definitely or probably would participate in the decennial survey, which is used to draw political boundaries and allocate hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds. But the disparities among racial groups in the remaining 16% percent underscores the challenge the Census Bureau faces in getting as accurate a count of people in the United States as possible. 

“This research is consistent with prior and ongoing research, and confirms the monumental task before the Census Bureau and the nation,” Arturo Vargas, CEO of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, said in an email. 

“Fortunately, research shows that if Latinos and other people of color learn how important being counted is to the distribution of public funding for everything from education, health care to infrastructure, they are more likely to want to be counted,” he added. “This is the message we will be emphasizing.”

Minority groups already face a higher risk of going uncounted, but advocacy groups are concerned that that is especially high going into 2020. They worry that President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, combined with growing distrust in government, has created a toxic atmosphere that will make people fearful of participating in the count. Trump’s failed effort to include a citizenship question on the census exacerbated those concerns. 

Several states and cities are investing millions in census efforts to ensure that all groups are counted. Some places, including the entire state of Texas, have yet to dedicate any resources towards the census.

Pew Research surveyed 6,878 U.S. adults between Sept. 16 and Sept. 29, using the online American Trends Panel.

Ariel Edwards-Levy contributed to this report.

CONVERSATIONS