Completing the Census is a Social Justice Issue

Completing the Census is a Social Justice Issue

survey recording a household’s likelihood to complete the census conducted by the U.S Census Bureau in 2018 reported that nearly a quarter of Americans said they would not complete the census due to concerns over a lack of data privacy and mistrust in the government.

The majority of these respondents identified with one or more of what the Bureau is calling “Hard to Count Communities”. These communities include individuals with limited education, limited English, limited income, and/or unstable housing and are often located in underfunded areas. These are the very groups that the Census was created to support, and, without a complete count, they are at risk to lose crucial funding for community services. And to make matters worse, these groups will be relegated to the shadows for another 10 years.

Anti-immigration messaging and reduced Census funding from the current federal administration has contributed to the idea that Census data can be used in ways that could be harmful to individuals and families. This is particularly frightening to our undocumented neighbors. Community leaders have been working to alleviate this misinformation, but people are still confused about whether or not a question about citizenship status will be on the Census. Just for the record, it’s not.

The Census is mandated by the Constitution, stating that every person living in the United States be counted every 10 years. Cook County is reporting a 61.5% response rate as of July 10, but that still leaves nearly 40% of our neighbors uncounted.

The Census determines how much a community is granted in funding for the next 10 years. That means funding for schools, school lunches, hospitals, and emergency services. The count is low in the neighborhoods that need this the  most – which means funding will be low. If we do not work to get everyone counted, these communities will continue to go underfunded for another decade.

By completing the Census, you are using your voice to create change. By telling your neighbors to complete the Census, you are standing up for your community. It takes five minutes to complete and it makes an immeasurable difference.  You matter. You are here. Your existence in our community is valued and it should be counted. Complete your Census and then tell someone else to complete theirs and repeat that until we have everyone in.

Keighty Ward

Community Literacy Program Manager

Literacy Works

Keighty is a Census Champion for the Cook County Complete Count Census Commission

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