Proposed changes to the decennial national census, including a question about citizenship status and the decision to move it online, have nonprofits in New York State concerned about the possibility of an historically unprecedented undercount, especially of children, NYN Media reports.
According to the Government Accountability Office, the changes are part of a larger push to reduce the costs of and encourage more participation in the decennial census, which has seen response rates fall from 78 percent in 1970 to 63 percent in 2010. Data from the Pew Research Center suggest, however, that populations historically at-risk for undercounting, including minorities, seniors, and low-income households, are less likely to be connected to or use the Internet.
The possibility of an undercount, which could cost the state as much as $53 million in federal funding, has spurred the formation of a coalition interested in supporting a fair and accurate census. The New York State Grantmakers for Census Equity, which includes the New York Community Trust, the New York Foundation, and other funders, hopes to raise between $1 million and $2 million for the New York State Census Equity Fund, which will award grants in support of local and statewide efforts to ensure the accuracy of the count, including education and outreach activities, public policy advocacy, messaging and communications, and research and evaluation initiatives.
Concerns also have been raised about the addition of a citizenship question to the survey — concerns that have catalyzed the creation of New York Counts 2020, a coalition of immigrant, religious, health, social services, business groups, and other stakeholders working in partnership with state and local government officials.
"The disruptive citizenship question is a significant threat to a proper census," said National Council of Nonprofits president Tim Delaney in a statement submitted to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. "Undercounts of demographic groups that charitable nonprofits serve can lead to inadequate representation and funding, which in turn increases pressure on nonprofits."
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