Home > News & Media>

Fully funded 2020 Census essential to racial equity, inclusive democracy

Contact: Elana Needle, 201.248.9724
Email: eneedle@raceforward.org

The Census Bureau is headed toward a potential crisis after Congress allocated significantly less funding to the 2020 Census than experts say is required to ensure all Americans are accounted for. Inadequate funding will drastically limit the resources necessary to conduct a thorough and accurate Census – a risk that will have severe and far-reaching consequences, disproportionately impacting communities of color.

Since the 1790s, as constitutionally mandated, the United States has been conducting Censuses that help us understand demographic change, apportion federal funding and spending, draw congressional districts, and collect taxes. In short, it is the best tool we have to count everyone – from the smallest and hardest to reach segments of our population – to the largest. We are currently in the ramp up to the Decennial Census 2020, which includes new technology based collection methods. In 2016, Congress granted the Census Bureau $140 million less than it requested. Additionally, the Bureau estimated needing $17.8 billion to successfully complete the Census 2020. Congress answered with $12.5 billion – the same amount used in 2010, despite knowing there are 15 million more people to count. And, new technology to implement. This much smaller budget means a reduction in regional and local Census offices, a decrease in staffing, and almost 40 percent fewer canvassers.

The Decennial Census, in particular, is a complicated and nuanced operation. As such, it necessitates several years of increased funding before launch. By not fully funding the preparation years for the 2020 Census, the President and Congress will fundamentally and detrimentally alter the implementation of the 2020 Census and by direct result our nation. The import of the consequences of not properly counting, in an inclusive and equitable way, our nation cannot be underscored. The Census impacts the very way our nation participates in elections, and how our leadership is chosen through redistricting and reapportionment. The Census also determines the allocation of close to $400 billion annually, including to programs serving hard to reach populations, and the neediest among us. It leads decision-making for policies affecting workers, including unemployment insurance, monitoring discrimination in the workplace, and job training programs. And its data directly impacts the education of our school children by drawing school district boundaries and determining funding allocation for many educational programs.

The Census also tells us an enormous amount about our communities of color. It is, quite simply, the largest longitudinal database we have on the American population. Despite its flaws, the Census helps us comply with nondiscrimination legislation, discuss and address racial disparities, identify communities in need of services and fund programs such as social service organizations running community based programming.

Advancement Project, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Demos, Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Congress of American Indians, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, National Council of La Raza, National Urban League, PICO Network, Poverty & Race Research Action Council and Race Forward are a collaborative of 12 leading national racial equity anchor organizations (the Anchors) supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Together we work to promote racial equity, advance racial healing and ensure that all children, families and communities have opportunities to reach their full potential.

Below the Anchors aptly describe the impacts of an inadequately funded Census on communities of color, and the greater American populace.


Advancement Project:

“At a time when democracy and the voices of communities of color in it are undergoing historic challenges, Census data is of monumental importance. People of color historically stand to lose the most when the government does not use its maximum capacity to capture the hardest to count populations. Forging the path toward a just, equitable democracy starts with a clear-eyed sense of what our communities look like. Everyone must be counted if we are to seriously do the work of improving our country.”
– Judith Browne Dianis, executive director, Advancement Project’s national office

Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum:

“The 2020 Census provides a critical opportunity for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders – the fastest growing racial and ethnic group in the country, to be counted. Data gathered from the Census provides the fundamental evidence for reapportionment of not just congressional districts, but resources, programs, and funding. The upcoming Census is our chance to ensure all communities are more accurately counted, included, and represented across the country and it is critical that Census get the resources it needs.”
– Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum


“From the beginning of our history, the Census has been the primary way by which our government has gathered the information it needs in order lead effectively and allocate resources efficiently. That this is now in serious jeopardy, 240 years after our founding, should be deeply disturbing to all of us. Supporting the Census is not a question of funding the survey. It is a question of whether we want to guarantee fair representation. It is a question of whether we want to ensure that every American has access to equal opportunities, no matter the color of her skin. These are values that stand at the core of our American identity – and for that reason, we all must call upon President Trump and Congress to ensure that the Census can take place in 2020 without issue.”
– Heather McGhee, president, Demos

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People:

“The inadequate funding of the 2020 census will have a disastrous impact on communities of color, similar to the effect of state-sponsored voter suppression laws. The census was designed as a tool to ensure adequate representation, resources and voting power for citizens, any attempt to use it instead as a means of suppressing the vote, should be and must be viewed as an insidious threat to our overall democracy.”
– Leon W. Russell, chairman, NAACP

National Congress of American Indians:

“The 2020 Census is critically important for tribal nations in their efforts to inform federal policy making and ensure that legislative redistricting provides Native people with an equitable voice in the political process. In 2010, the Census count missed nearly five percent of American Indian/Alaska Native people. To ensure that every Native person is included, it is imperative that the planning, budgeting, education, and outreach for the 2020 Census is adequate to that task.”
– Jacqueline Pata, executive director, National Congress of American Indians

National Council of La Raza:

“Virtually every institution in society relies on the decennial Census to inform vital decisions. Funding shortfalls and insufficient planning could undermine a full, complete, and accurate count of our nation’s population in 2020. Immediate policy intervention is required to ensure that the Census continues to serve as a reliable source of information in the future.”
– Janet Murguia, president and CEO, National Council of La Raza

National Council for Asian Pacific Americans:

“A fully funded Census is crucial to our democracy. In order for all people – and especially those in diverse communities – to be understood and recognized, we must have accurate and complete data. In issues ranging from poverty and educational attainment to voting rights and access to health services, the Census is critical in addressing areas that greatly impact the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and all communities.”
– Christopher Kang, national director, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA)

National Urban League:

“Fully funding and participating in the decennial Census is essential to our work as advocates for racial equity. The Census provides us with hard data to not only historically chart our gains, but to also determine where we must continue to fight for progress. Anything short of a complete investment in the Census threatens the survival of our democracy.”
– Marc H. Morial, president and CEO, National Urban League

PICO Network:

“In the biblical Book of Numbers we find the first census being taken by Moses as instructed by God so the people may provide for the provision of the nation. Later in the Christian text we find Joseph traveling with a pregnant Mary to Bethlehem to participate in the census. Throughout the Bible, in both the Hebrew and Christian Testaments, the census was taken for the purpose of providing for the people and planning on how to resource the nation. The census is an investment in the families of this nation. It is imperative that all of God’s children are counted! The work of the census is necessary so that all of God’s children can participate fully in the society in which they live. They participate as good citizens caring for their neighbors as well as receiving the benefit of the collective resourcing of the nation. The Federal Government must fully fund the census for the benefit of all that dwell within the country.”
– Bishop Dwayne Royster, political director, PICO National Network

Poverty & Race Research Action Council:

“Our country has a long history of racial and socio-economic segregation and discrimination in education and housing – the legacy of which has been studied and tracked through data made possible by the Census. As we continue to work to overcome segregation and discrimination, it is imperative that we have a fully funded 2020 Census to accurately understand the continued effects of discriminatory policies, deter policies that encourage segregation and to determine the necessary resources to help build inclusive communities across the country.”
– Philip Tegeler, director, Poverty & Race Research Action Council

Race Forward:

“Without adequate funding, the 2020 Census is in danger of undercounting communities of color and other hard-to-reach populations, with negative consequences for congressional representation, budget allocations for billions of dollars in federal programs, and our ability to track racial disparities and progress. Conducting the Census is an enormous responsibility, enshrined in our Constitution, and we must ensure it is conducted fairly in order to build a more inclusive democracy.”
– Rinku Sen, executive director, Race Forward

Related Topics

What to Read Next

Scroll to Top