Democracy Funders Collaborative Census Subgroup Pushes Census Turnout

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Democracy Funders Collaborative Census Subgroup Pushes Census Turnout

Grant makers are gearing up early to counter Trump administration policies surrounding the 2020 census and raising concerns that the White House plans and a general rise in an anti-immigrant sentiment could distort the results of the crucial once-a-decade population count.

Getting an accurate head count is always tricky, but the administration added another hitch when it decided that for the first time since 1950, the census will ask people if they are U.S. citizens.

"It was challenging before the addition of the citizenship question," says Gary Bass, executive director of the Bauman Foundation. "It will be even tougher going forward."

Bass and others cite a number of additional reasons for concern:

  • A tighter labor market will make it harder for the Census Bureau to hire people to go door-to-door.
  • An effort to do more of the count online is untested and could fall short.
  • States with tight budgets may divert money from programs that promote the census and that help localities identify undercounted populations.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Tuesday to determine if these and other items could hamper the federal government from getting an accurate count.

Group Effort

Anticipating these difficulties, Bauman joined with nine other grant makers, including the Annie E. Casey and Ford foundations and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, to draw up a census game plan. The group, called the Democracy Funders Collaborative Census Subgroup has pooled more than $5 million since 2016 and developed a three-pronged strategy: attract more philanthropic dollars; support policies like a federal budget increase and additional funding from the states; and assist in efforts to improve the count when the census begins in April 2020...