Census Bureau: RI hardest state to count in New England


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ There’s no citizenship question on the 2020 census.

But that hasn’t stopped 70% of adults from thinking there is, according to The Urban Institute.

The Urban Institute recently conducted a study that found nearly one-third of adults believe it is “extremely or very likely” that census information will be used by the federal government to find undocumented people, even though the Census Bureau is prohibited by law from sharing individual data with other federal agencies.

The study also found that immigrants and minorities are “hard to count,” usually because of low response rates. In the 2010 census, the Census Bureau failed to count 1.5 million members of minority groups.

An undercount in the 2020 census could have a trickle-down effect in Rhode Island. The American Immigration Council said 13.5% of Rhode Islanders are immigrants and, according to the Census Bureau, the state is the hardest to count in New England.

“The census has, for decades and decades, had a hard time counting certain types of people and households,” said Robert Santos, the Urban Institute’s vice president and chief methodologist director.

The Census Bureau has repeatedly denounced rumors of the inclusion of a citizenship question, adding that just last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it could not legally appear on the census.

“It’s also true that many don’t trust that a citizenship question is not on the census,” Santos added. “It’s unfortunate that there is a fear in the community and people that are hesitant.”

This could have dynamic impacts on Rhode Island. Roughly $3 billion in federal funds are allocated to the state annually based on census results. Rhode Island is also at risk of losing a state representative and an electoral-college vote after the census this year, though experts say it is going to be “extremely close.”

With this in mind, local organizations including Fuerza Laboral, The Latino Policy Institute and Progreso Latino are trying to clear up any confusion for Rhode Islanders.

“There are a lot of hard-to-count communities in the area,” Latino Policy Institute Executive Director Marcela Betancur said. “But we are part of a program that will be hosting trainings to inform and answer questions.”

As co-chair of the statewide census committee, Central Falls Mayor James Diossa tells Eyewitness News there are many reasons why Rhode Island is hard to count.

“We are the only state that received the test run in 2018, so many people think they’ve already filled it out,” Diossa explained. “While that transpired, the administration in Washington was trying to push for that citizenship question, which pushed a whole other dynamic. It compounded the issue of no one knowing exactly what is going on and the question confused people a lot.”

Diossa said he has an idea which he hopes will spur census involvement statewide.

“Treat it like a campaign. Talk to people, inform,” Diossa said. “We know we can’t solely depend on the Census Bureau. The only way people will trust this whole thing is to see trusted faces on a local level involved.”

Fighting 2020 Census Rumors »

Anyone who has questions or concerns regarding the process can reach out to the Census Bureau by contacting rumors@census.gov.

The following local organizations are also available to provide information:

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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