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What does a census undercount mean for state and local governments?

David Brancaccio, Jasmine Garsd, and Alex Schroeder Oct 14, 2020
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Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

What does a census undercount mean for state and local governments?

David Brancaccio, Jasmine Garsd, and Alex Schroeder Oct 14, 2020
Heard on:
Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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The U.S. Supreme Court has now allowed the Trump administration to cut short its counting of people for the 2020 census. The deadline had previously been extended given the challenges of pandemic. Civil rights groups are among those worried about an undercount.

Marketplace’s Jasmine Garsd has looked into this. The following is an edited transcript of her conversation with “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio.

David Brancaccio: Jasmine, the Trump administration is saying 99% of people have been counted in 49 states. Is that right?

Jasmine Garsd: Some experts say this just isn’t the case. Also, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the only Supreme Court justice to dissent, expressed that “even a fraction of a percent of the nation’s 140 million households amounts to hundreds of thousands of people left uncounted.”

Activists’ concern is also about who would go uncounted if the census wraps up now, saying it will be marginalized populations, rural areas and tribal lands. They are saying the damage could be irreparable.

Brancaccio: If there’s damage, what are we talking?

Garsd: Among other issues, this is about money. Census data determines over $1.5 trillion in federal funding to state and local governments. I spoke to professor Kenneth Prewitt from Columbia University, former director of the United States Census Bureau. He said that money “will go to those cities or towns or areas which are overcounted, and not those which are undercounted.”

One example of this is Los Angeles. Civil rights leaders are saying it’s one of the hardest to count in the country, because many residents just don’t respond online. Ironically, many of those are the people who are in most need.

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