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The Census Could Undercount People Who Don’t Have Internet Access

Reprinted from Slate.com:

There has been no shortage of debate about the upcoming census. For weeks, we had a steady stream of “will they or won’t they” as the White House, the courts, and advocates grappled with the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 census form. But lost in this back-and-forth is another problem that could lead to the undercounting of the population of the United States, which would affect how billions in federal funds are distributed. It involves broadband.

For the first time in our history, the U.S. census will prioritize collecting responses online. In practice, this means that most households will get a letter in the mail directing them to fill out a form on a website. For households that do not respond, letters with paper forms may follow, and a census taker could eventually be sent to collect the data in person. But in light of the effort to increase internet responses, there will be a reduced effort to call on homes, knock on doors, and get responses in the mail. In fact, the Census Bureau has planned to hire 125,000 fewer staff members than during the last go-around 10 years ago, because it is counting on this online effort, in conjunction with local resources, to secure participation.


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