Every ten years there is a new Census that counts the U.S. population. The goal is to know how many we are and where we are, among other data, in order to rearrange electoral districts so they stay politically representative, reflecting the people’s movements through the decade, and allowing for the distribution of more than $400 billion in federal help where it’s needed the most.
That’s why population under count is a very serious problem with both political and economic consequences that extend over 10 years, until the next census. Among those most affected are Latino children: According to a study by Child Trends and National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), more than 400,000 were not counted in the 2010 Census.
The analysis estimated that those children under the age of 4 years are especially concentrated geographically. The states of Arizona, California, Florida, New York and Texas host 75% of the children who remained uncounted. The impact for the communities where those children live is devastating, because their needs are invisible for the federal government. More than 25% of all children in the U.S. are Latino, and two thirds live under the poverty level.
The child under count problem was also recognized in a study made by the Census Office in February 2014. Both the study presented yesterday and that of the Census recognize the problem of not adequately counting Latino children in high-density areas. Communication between the Census and the Latino community is crucial to avoid the same problem in 2020.
Even more important is that the staff preparing the next count is aware of the difficulties that caused the 2010 undercount. The Census report pointed out that that didn’t take care of that before, and that those who worked on the counting “were not aware” of the Latino children under count of 2000.
Counting more than 300 million people is not an easy task. It’s even more complicated when plans for the next census are already behind schedule. We still have four more years to learn the lessons of the past and make sure that all children are properly counted.