The bureau had expected to continue field data collection, which includes door-knocking, phone calls and online responses, until Oct. 31. The date had been pushed back from a July 31 deadline after the coronavirus pandemic complicated field operations.
To help meet the earlier deadline, the bureau will include “enumerator awards and the hiring of more employees to accelerate the completion of data collection and apportionment counts by our statutory deadline of December 31, 2020, as required by law and directed by the Secretary of Commerce,” Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham said in a statement.
Ending the data collection earlier might help the bureau meet its legal deadline of providing information to Congress and the White House by the end of the year, but some officials have questioned whether that will be possible now given the setbacks already caused by the pandemic.
“We are past the window of being able to get those counts by those dates at this point,” Albert Fontenot, the bureau’s associate director for decennial census programs, said in a July press briefing.
To date, about 63% of households have responded to the 2020 census.
Rumblings of the date change first reported by NPR cited three anonymous Census Bureau employees, one of whom expressed fears of a “massive undercount” as a result of the “impossible” task of completing the count by the new deadline.
Democrats and civil rights advocates have questioned whether rushing to meet the December deadline will produce an unfair and incorrect count. Concerns have also been raised about President Donald Trump’s order to exclude undocumented immigrants from the count, despite the fact that the census is intended to count every person living in the United States.
In an op-ed published in The Washington Post on Monday, Vanita Gupta, the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, called on Congress to intervene. Reducing the time for census takers to get in touch with households that didn’t participate in the self-response phase of the count has a disproportionate effect on people living in marginalized communities, she said.
“The Trump administration is doing everything it can to sabotage the 2020 census so that it reflects an inaccurate and less diverse portrait of America. Its latest effort involves quietly compressing the census timeline to all but guarantee a massive undercount,” she wrote. “Rushing census operations, as the administration is attempting to do, ensures the bureau won’t count millions of people — especially those hit hardest by the pandemic.”