Urban Institute warns of population miscount in 2020 Census

A new study from the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Institute warns that the U.S. population could be undercounted by millions of people in the 2020 Census, potentially leaving out tens of thousands of Hoosiers.

According to the left-leaning think tank, the miscounts are possible for several reasons, including the first-time use of online responses, lower federal funding levels for the Census and a potential question about citizenship that the U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t ruled on yet. 

The report, released Tuesday, provides three different scenarios for miscounts during the 2020 Census. The worst-case scenario in Indiana predicts the population could be undercounted by nearly 40,000 people, or about 0.6% of the population. The best-case scenario suggests an overcount of 17,300 people.

The U.S. Census Bureau conducts the census every 10 years, and the population counts are used for federal funding allocations, congressional redistricting and state and local budgets, among numerous other things.

Nationwide, the worst-case situation shows an undercount of 4 million people—slightly more than 1% of the total population—and a best-case scenario of undercounting by nearly 900,000 people.

California, Texas, New York, Florida, New Mexico, Nevada and Georgia are the states most at risk for undercounting the population. 

“An undercount in the 2020 Census is likely inevitable. The big question is by how much,” the report says. “Our projections show that even under the lowest-risk scenario—where we assume that the 2020 Census will perform exactly as the 2010 Census did—the national population count will be less accurate.”

In Indiana, minority groups, including blacks and Hispanics, and children under the age of 4 are the most at-risk for being undercounted, which is similar to what the Urban Institute estimated in other states. Adults older than 50 are the most at risk for being overcounted in Indiana. 

“Folks over 50 tend to respond very vigorously to a census and sometimes they respond more than once,” said Robert Santos, vice president and chief methodologist for the Urban Institute.

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