The preliminary results of the 2020 Census once again show a fact that unfortunately has become a chronic problem: Latino, African-American and Native American minorities were once again undercounted in the national count.
The statistical underestimation of Latinos was 4.99% in 2020, compared to 1.54% in 2010. For African Americans it was 3.3% in 2020, compared to 2% in 2010, and for the Indigenous community it was a record number 5.64%, up from 4.8% in 2010. In contrast, non-Hispanic whites and Asians were overcounted in the official count.
Why does it matter? Why the distribution of around 1.5 trillion dollars in federal money depends on the census results to communities throughout the country for educational, health, transportation, surveillance, and various other kinds of public services.
Although the 14th constitutional amendment establishes that “the entire number of people in each state” must be counted, the past Trump administration made extraordinary efforts to exclude undocumented immigrants from the count. Faced with the rejection of the courts, his Department of Commerce determined to put a stop to the national count prematurely. A recent memo obtained by The New York Times shows how Trump administration appointees pressured career bureaucrats seeking to ensure accurate results.
The efforts of the past administration also had a political motive. Census numbers are the basis for redistricting: An undercount of minorities, who mostly vote Democrat, could favor Republicans.
Robert Santos, the new director of the Census appointed by President Biden and a prestigious statistician, considers the figures to be valid, given the unprecedented challenges that the operation of the 2020 Census faced during the Trump era. “Taking today’s findings together, we believe the 2020 Census data is fit for many uses in decision-making, as well as painting a vivid portrait of the people of our nation.”
Even assuming the appreciation of the director of the Census Bureau is correct, the question is: Is there at this time a legal route to try to correct the undercounting of minorities, in such a way that it can be remedied and compensated in the distribution of federal resources?
This is a valid question, given that Latino, African American, and Native American minorities have been the most disproportionately hit during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to be exposed on the front lines of the battle as essential workers. Seeking an urgent remedy is not only an act of justice but a moral obligation.
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