Written by Melody Kramer, Carolina Demography, Carolina Population Center
Have you filled out your 2020 Census form yet?
A complete and accurate 2020 Census is important for North Carolina.
The census shapes how billions of dollars in federal funding are distributed (including $43.8 billion to North Carolina) for everything from highway spending and emergency response services to programs like Medicare and Head Start.
Additionally, the Census ensures that communities are appropriately represented in the statehouse and in Congress. And it is the backbone of virtually every data product researchers, governments, and businesses use to understand who we are, how we’ve changed, and what this might mean for the future. This once-a-decade count is the only source of basic demographic data on all individuals living in the United States.
But counting everyone who lives in the United States—and counting them accurately—is really hard to do. Historically, certain populations have been undercounted in the census, due to a variety of factors. In 2010, the Census Bureau estimated the census missed about 2.1% of the Black population nationwide. For young children, the undercount was worse: estimates suggest the 2010 Census missed 6.3% of Black children under 5. Undercounting these communities skews census data that’s used to ensure fair political representation and support critical services such as schools, parks, and healthcare facilities.
We work at Carolina Demography, an applied demography group located with the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
We are tracking North Carolina’s self-response rates for the 2020 Census, including county-level response rates for all 100 counties across the state.
We are currently seeing that the individuals living in the lowest-responding tracts are increasingly likely to be minority residents. On March 20th, just over one in four (27%) of residents in the lowest-responding tracts identified as American Indian, Black, or Hispanic/Latinx. As of May 17th, this proportion had increased to 44%.
There are also clear geographic patterns emerging: the lowest-responding tracts are heavily concentrated in western North Carolina, the Sandhills, and the northeast. These low-response patterns overlap with areas with low internet access and where field operations were suspended due to COVID-19.
Fill out your Census today, and please encourage others in your community to fill out their Census. It takes just a few moments to complete and ensures that you will be counted.