The Census is one of the cornerstones of our American democracy. Mandated by the United States Constitution, it is conducted every 10 years and is the largest peacetime effort of the federal government. Census data is used for a variety of purposes from allocation of billions of dollars of federal funding to political representation apportionment to enforcement of civil rights laws. When census information is not accurate, it threatens to muffle the voices of undercounted groups and regions, and undermine the basic political equality that is central to our democracy. Institutions across the country - including local and state governments, businesses, nonprofits and foundations - routinely rely on data from the census to allocate funding, define where services are delivered and promote economic development.
The Census Bureau is facing a daunting set of challenges as it prepares for the 2020 census. Since the bureau is facing budget constraints like never before, it is planning to collect the majority of Census information online, scale back door-to-door outreach, and roll back canvassing. These changes increase the potential of undercounting young children, minorities, low-income individuals and other marginalized individuals. Given the current climate, regional and national philanthropy-serving organizations (PSOs) and their members are needed to advocate and educate elected officials and community leaders on the importance and impact of the 2020 Census on their communities. Even without the changes being proposed for the 2020 Census, we know there were gross undercounts of vulnerable populations in California in the 2010 Census. There is much work ahead for philanthropy in ensuring a fair and accurate count.