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Analysis Spotlights Risk Of Census Undercount In Communities Of Color

A picture of a census form
Enayet Raheem

The U.S. Census is underway, and many communities of color across the nation are vulnerable to being undercounted this year.

According to a new analysis from Headwaters Economics, more than 700,000 people of color are at risk of being undercounted in the Mountain West alone.

“We all want fair representation, fair political representation, and since political representation is determined by the Census, it’s just a huge step backwards to not have communities of color be accurately represented in the census,” said Patricia Hernandez Gude, associate director at the nonprofit research group based in Montana.

The analysis includes interactive maps that show census response rates in communities of color across the country. New Mexico had the highest non-response rate in those communities as of July 16.

People are more likely to be missed if they live in dense urban or remote rural environments, are experiencing homelessness, or distrust the government, according to the analysis. And that can be even more challenging during a pandemic, which has caused the U.S. Census Bureau to delay field operations.

“Historically, predominantly white states (such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa) have completed the census at higher rates than states with more people of color (such as Alaska, New Mexico, and Texas),” the analysis states.

In 2010, American Indians and Alaska Natives living on reservations were undercounted by 4.9%, making them the most undercounted group in the census.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump signed an order earlier this week aiming to exclude undocumented immigrants from being counted for Congressional districts, a move that is being challenged in the courts.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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Noah Glick is a former content director and host at KUNR Public Radio.
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