Censuses fear that tenants have been under counted


Census taker Linda Rothfield’s government-issued iPhone kept her going back to homes in San Francisco that she already knew were empty. If she found occupied apartments, she was sometimes turned away because of the pandemic.

Census taker Linda Rothfield’s government-issued iPhone kept her going back to homes in San Francisco that she already knew were empty. If she found occupied apartments, she was sometimes turned away because of the pandemic.

“I had a couple of landlords who said, ‘It’s COVID. You can’t come in, ‘”said Rothfield.

With staff numbers turned upside down by natural disasters, political unrest and a deadly virus across the country, it was particularly difficult to count tenants over the past year. This worried former census participants and experts that the balance sheet did not take them all into account.

Overlook the people in the country’s 44 million rental homes comes at a potentially hefty price tag. Since the census helps determine how $ 1.5 trillion in federal money is spent each year, the lower numbers would mean government support for schools, roads, and medical services is less in these communities.

Around 36% of homes in the US are rented out, up from 33% in the last census a decade ago.

In the best of circumstances, renters are among the hardest to count because they tend to be more volatile and are more likely to live below the poverty line. According to The Leadership Conference Education Fund, a civil rights group, they are also typically disproportionately colored, traditionally underestimated in the census.

Incomplete data on the racial or ethnic origin of tenants could also prevent the formation of black or Hispanic majority political districts.

Renters tend to have lower self-administration rates than homeowners, so the government relies more on census takers knocking on their doors, said Jeri Green, a former senior advisor to the Census Bureau who served as an advisor to the National Urban League during 2020 Census.

“This is a population that was at risk of being overlooked prior to COVID,” Green said. “We know that it is a challenge for the Census Bureau to precisely enumerate the tenants.”

In the 2010 census, tenants were under counted by 1.1%, but the rate was higher for some tenants. Black male renters between the ages of 30 and 49 were undercounted by 12.2% and Hispanic male renters between 18 and 29 were undercounted by 8.6%, according to the Leadership Conference Education Fund.

Delays caused by the pandemic resulted in the Census Bureau eliminating a step before the door knock phase, where census overseers meet with property managers or landlords to find out which apartments are vacant or occupied so that census takers don’t waste their time on vacancies to knock units, the agency said in a statement.

“However, we were able to inform the landlord or manager that meters would pay a visit and ask for their cooperation before the operation began,” the statement said, adding that officials at the office were off work the census takers are convinced.

In cases where tenants did not respond to survey questionnaires or survey respondents were unable to interview them, the census bureau had to use other, less reliable, methods to count them. These methods included using administrative records from the Internal Revenue Service or the Social Security Administration, soliciting neighbors or postal workers for information, or using a statistical method as a last resort.

About 60% of census overseers interviewed by the Governmental Accountability Office for a 2020 census study reported that their census takers struggled to complete the number of cases because they were unable to get into apartment buildings.

“The pandemic has made communication with property managers difficult,” the GAO said in a report released in March. “In particular (supervisors) told us that meters were often denied access to apartment buildings because of the pandemic.”

Nathan Bean, a Chicago census overseer, said that even when he could reach property managers by phone last summer, they often said, “We won’t answer your calls. We won’t answer your questions. ‘”

How many renters have been under-counted, if in fact missed them, won’t be known until December and early next year with the release of a survey that measures the accuracy of the count.

The Census Bureau has already released 2020 census figures that were used in deciding how many congressional seats each state will get, and those numbers showed that just a few dozen people counted or overlooked made a big difference. If 89 more people had been added together, New York would not have lost a seat in Congress. If 26 people were missing in Minnesota, Gopher State would have lost a seat.

The numbers used for redrawing congressional and legislative districts won’t be available until August.

Jan Rice, who worked on the Denver census, said she was frustrated that she was forbidden from contacting the apartment managers herself so she could get information about occupied units and remove vacant units from the database to save other censuses , Your time. When she tried, her supervisor said, “‘Your job is to knock on doors,'” she said.

“It destroyed our productivity,” said Rice. “If you don’t count them correctly, you won’t give them a vote.”


Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP.

Mike Schneider, The Associated Press


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