Opinion: 2020 Census responses at all-time low, importance often overlooked

The 2020 Census is now upon us. First established in the Constitution of the United States, the Census aims to count every person living in the U.S. and at the location the person lives. This brief questionnaire is essential in ensuring that an accurate amount of funding and representation is given to each state. 

The online Census report began in mid-March, kickstarting a government endeavor that occurs once a decade in which every U.S. household is required fill out a questionnaire that asks basic demographic questions: how many people live in the household, who lives in the there, how they are related, their age, sex, and race, and their phone number. 

“The money comes through programs designed to address a wide range of issues, from health care to nutrition for children and families, to assistance for college costs, to housing assistance, to jobs programs, and more,” Steven Moulton and Steven Lon said in an analysis on the Census report on the Project on Government Oversight website. 

The number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives, as well as federal funding necessary for local schools and communities, are based on these population totals. In California, for example, each person counted through the Census report equals about $4,350 given directly to the state. 

The results of this report, therefore, will influence federal spending, policymaking, and overall planning for the coming decade.  

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, however, there has been a drastic decline in the number of responses to the 2020 Census report.

According to the United States Census website, only 65% of households have responded on the national level, in comparison to the target percentage of 96. In California, 67% of households have responded, and with only 33 days until the deadline, estimates say we will be lucky to reach 80%. 

With 20% of Californians not being counted in the Census, the state will feel an impact. These low numbers of the Census report should concern Americans because government funding could be cut if an inaccurate count of the population is used. 

So how can I fill out a Census report, you might ask. To fill out the report, you must be at least 15-years-old and accurately describe the number of people in your home. Once you’ve done that, you can encourage others to do the same by sharing the link to the online questionnaire. What may seem like a meaningless and bothersome bureaucratic form will actually have lasting impacts on the government decisions of the coming decade.