Los Angeles Regional Census Table
OUR COLLABORATIVE CENSUS WORK
For the 2020 census, L.A. County is facing circumstances that are equally if not more challenging than those of the 2010 Census, and there is a very real possibility of an undercount with serious negative repercussions for Southeast L.A. Through the LARCT, organizations are able to share knowledge and resources, as well as coordinate outreach efforts with each other and government agencies, with the goal of ensuring a fair and accurate count of all of Los Angeles’ residents. LARCT meetings will be held at six different locations throughout the Los Angeles region. The SELA Collaborative will host the meetings for the Southeast L.A. region.
These events are open to all agencies and organizations who are interested in learning more about the 2020 Census and coordinating with others to align outreach efforts. Our next meeting will take place on May 29th, 2019 at the South Gate Municipal Auditorium. Click the button below for full details and to RSVP. For more details about the importance of the 2020 Census for Southeast LA’s community members, please read on.
The Importance of the 2020 Census for Southeast Los Angeles Communities and L.A. County as a Whole
The following text is an excerpt from Los Angeles Counts 2020: A General Plan for a Regional Census Outreach Campaign
The collection of accurate, timely, and comprehensive census data is crucial to the well-being of our communities. Census data inform smart decision-making in government, commerce, and the economy. Federal officials rely on the data to allocate billions of dollars in federal funds to local communities, as well as to determine the fair reapportionment of congressional seats. State and local officials use the data in redistricting processes to draw representative boundaries for federal, state, and local districts. They also use them to make decisions about infrastructure, such as where to build a new school or road. Similarly, local entrepreneurs utilize census data to decide whether and where to start or relocate a business.
Much is at stake for the L.A. region in the 2020 Census. The California Department of Finance estimates that the county’s population will grow from about 10.3 million in 2018 to 10.8 million residents over the next ten years, an addition of approximately a half million residents (source). This means that the county will need more, not fewer, financial resources from the federal government. These resources will be needed to pay for vital services and programs on issues ranging from education to health to transportation. Similarly, an increase in population means that multiple political districts for governing bodies (e.g., Congress, the state legislature, L.A. County Board of Supervisors, city councils, and school boards) will have to be redrawn to ensure equal representation.
The L.A. region is primarily at risk of an undercount because of its large number of hard-to-count residents. Based on an analysis by members of the Census Policy Advocacy Network, California is home to an estimated minimum of 15.1 million hard-to-count residents. Over one-third of those residents (5.2 million) live in the L.A. region, which is approximately half of all county residents. Many of those residents qualify as hard-to-count because they live in census tracts that, according to the Census Bureau, are more likely than others to have low self-response rates to the decennial census. Other residents qualify as hard-to-count because of unique characteristics, not because of where they live.
“…California is home to an estimated minimum of 15.1 million hard-to-count residents. Over one-third of those residents (5.2 million) live in the L.A. region, which is approximately half of all county residents.” – Census Policy Advocacy Network
It is not simply the large number of hard-to-count residents that makes the region’s demographics such a risk factor; it is also the diversity of our population. The region comprises a wide range of sociodemographic groups, including but not limited to racial and ethnic populations, low-income communities, immigrants, young children, individuals experiencing homelessness, and LGBTQ people. This diversity means that there is a wide and complex range of regional barriers to census participation that will need to be addressed to achieve an accurate count.
Other risk factors stem from the fact that the Census Bureau must comply with a congressional mandate to conduct the 2020 Census at a lower cost per household than the 2010 Census. To achieve these cost savings, the Bureau plans to implement several “innovations” to the 2020 Census, which includes using the internet as the primary response option for the 2020 Census questionnaire, instead of primarily relying on paper responses. The Bureau intends to make responding to the census questionnaire convenient. However, access to broadband (high-speed) internet will determine how convenient an internet response will be for an individual. This is especially concerning for stakeholders in the L.A. region since the county has a high concentration of populations less likely to have broadband access.
The region comprises a wide range of sociodemographic groups, including but not limited to racial and ethnic populations, low-income communities, immigrants, young children, individuals experiencing homelessness, and LGBTQ people. This diversity means that there is a wide and complex range of regional barriers to census participation that will need to be addressed to achieve an accurate count.
It is also important to note the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census questionnaire. On March 26, 2018, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced his decision directing the Census Bureau to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. This decision was formally in response to a request from the Department of Justice. In his memo on the decision, Secretary Ross claims that it is necessary to obtain citizenship information to help the government obtain currently unavailable data on the population estimates of people who are eligible to vote, thereby helping to enforce the Voting Rights Act (VRA).
Before and since Secretary Ross’s announcement, there has been strong opposition to adding a citizenship question. Opponents have noted that data from the American Community Survey have been sufficient for VRA enforcement. Furthermore, they argue, the Census Bureau rigorously tests the questions that it intends to include on decennial census questionnaires, but it has not tested and cannot sufficiently test the citizenship question at this late stage to determine its potential impact on response rates.
The L.A. region could be one of the regions most adversely affected by the citizenship question. The county is home to nearly 3.5 million immigrants, over 35 percent of the county’s total population. Many of these immigrants live in mixed-status families that are extremely apprehensive about providing any information to the federal government because of fears about deportation. The citizenship question could exacerbate that fear, resulting in low levels of participation among the county’s immigrant community, inaccurate population numbers, and ultimately inadequate resources for the region.
To read the full “Los Angeles Counts 2020” Plan commissioned by the California Community Foundation and written by members of the Advancement Project California team, please click here.
In addition to the challenges described above, there are shifts in the federal landscape which are creating issues for the 2020 Census, including changes to federal imigration policy, continued underfunding of the Census Bureau, and and the resignation of Census Bureau Director John Thompson. It is clear the challenges facing L.A. County and Southeast Los Angeles for the upcoming Census are considerable, and in order to avoid an undercount it is necessary for nonprofits, community leaders, elected officials, and government entities to share efforts and align resources.
In light of the challenges and possibilities surrounding the 2020 Census, the goals for the regional census table meetings are to:
- Share knowledge and resources regarding census-related work happening throughout Los Angeles County
- Help organizations throughout LA County coordinate outreach efforts with each other, philanthropy, and government agencies, especially the County and City of Los Angeles
- Create a shared understanding of the issues, challenges, and possibilities surrounding the upcoming 2020 census
We hope you can join us at this meeting to help us work collaboratively to ensure all L.A. County members are counted and represented in the 2020 Census. See the section below for resources you can use to learn more about the importance of the 2020 Census and help spread the word!
Census 2020 Resources
For more information on why the upcoming census is so critical for Southeast Los Angeles and Los Angeles County as a whole, please refer to the following resources:
- “What is the Census?” Sheet (Spanish version) from NALEO
- “The Invisible Ones: How Latino Children Are Left Out of Our Nation’s Census Count” Report from NALEO
- “Uses of Census Bureau Data in Federal Funds Distribution” Report from the U.S. Census Bureau
- “Why We Conduct the Decennial Census” Article from the U.S. Census Bureau
- Census Resources Page from CensusOutreach.org
- Census 2020 Litigation Page from the Brennan Center for Justice