Civil Rights Coalition Releases The Hard Count
Report Evaluates Census Challenges in Gulf Coast and Texas Colonias, Offers Recommendations for 2020 Count
WASHINGTON – The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and local Gulf Coast advocates hosted has released “The Hard Count: A Community Perspective on 2010 Census Operations in the Gulf Coast and Texas Colonias." The report chronicles the challenges encountered in achieving a complete count in New Orleans, the Texas colonias, and the Mississippi Delta, and the efforts by local and national advocates and the Census Bureau to overcome these challenges. Additionally, The Hard Count offers a set of concrete recommendations that would lead to a more accurate count for the region in the 2020 census.
The report raises issues about people not receiving census forms in the mail as expected; inadequate communication and consultation by census officials with local groups and leaders; and too few census enumerators and Partnership Program staff who speak languages other than English or were culturally sensitive to the communities in which they were working.
“During the last two censuses, the Census Bureau missed counting millions of people – mostly minorities and low-income people – and overcounted millions of people – mostly wealthy and non-minority,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Any census count that misses the most vulnerable in our society and, at the same time, overcounts those who are already advantaged, raises serious civil rights concerns – concerns about equal treatment under the law and equal access to economic opportunity.”
More background on the report’s findings:
The report urges the following steps to improve the 2020 Census for the region:
• Congressional oversight committees should examine the conduct of the 2010 census in the Gulf Coast region, as well as in hard-to-count areas in Mississippi and the colonias.
• Congress should consider whether to fund a special Gulf Coast census in 2012 or 2013.
• Congress and the Census Bureau should consider revisions to the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) program that would give designated community-based organizations an opportunity to assist state and local LUCA officials in their reviews of preliminary address lists.
• The Census Bureau should update the Master Address File continuously throughout the decade, allowing the bureau to capture change in the nation’s housing stock more effectively; to work closely with the U.S. Postal Service and leverage other administrative sources to document housing changes in real time; and to contain the cost of future censuses by mitigating the need for a massive canvassing operation a year before each enumeration.
The report also recommends that the Census Bureau implement the following changes to its operational capacity:
• Examine the effectiveness of the cultural facilitator program in consultation with other stakeholders and determine how to engage partner organizations more effectively in this program in 2020.
• Examine procedures for hiring bilingual field staff to ensure that employees assigned to work with or collect data from people whose primary language is not English are truly conversant in that language and fully understand the culture of the immigrant communities and families with whom they must communicate.
• Establish a task force or working group to document issues that arose in the 2010 census in the Texas colonias and to make recommendations about the process for determining the most effective enumeration method and outreach strategies for these and similar types of communities in 2020. Such a task force should include representatives of local organizations that serve the residents of colonias and other migrant worker communities on a regular basis.
• Partnership specialists should begin outreach to state and local organizations earlier, and more partnership specialists should remain in their positions during the Nonresponse Follow-up operation.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals.