OKLAHOMA CITY – Filling out the Census by hand is history. Using the Census’ new on-line format is more accurate, and can actually help children in crisis, a child advocate said this week.
Joe Dorman, a former state representative and the executive director of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy said the state needs to improve its participation in the Census.
“The census is not one of those priorities for these individuals that are struggling to make ends or to that live paycheck to paycheck,” Dorman said. “We’ve been trying to convey that message to them that we know this may not be a top priority for you, but it matters for your children.”
Dorman said the Census equals out to about $1,700 per person in federal funding. Because the Census happens every ten years, that comes out to approximately $17,000 lost in federal funding for each person who doesn’t fill out the Census.
Oklahoma has been undercounted in previous Census counts, Dorman said. This year, Oklahoma is “spending money to make money” by dedicating funds to advertising and turnout efforts. “Oklahoma actually added more households, new households, than any other state in the nation because we had been so far behind on the previous two [census counts],” he said.
Regions and populations with low self-response rates in past Census counts are considered “hard to count.” Hard-to-count populations include people of color, rural residents, people with disabilities, people part of the LGBTQ+ population and low-income individuals according to Dorman.
Why would someone not fill out the Census?
Many people who are afraid of the government also avoid filling out the Census. For example, undocumented citizens are afraid they will be discovered and deported. Dorman said the Census data is not used for that purpose, despite political arguments that preceded this year’s count.
Another hard to count population are children in the zero-to-five age group. “The reason for that,” Dorman said, “Is if you have a single mom with three kids working and she doesn’t fill out the census that means four people in that household are not counted.”
However, children need federal money. One of the biggest programs funded by the Census count is Medicaid and in Oklahoma that covers SoonerCare, a medical insurance for low-income children.
“That zero to defined age group is the one that is short changed the most by estimate and as I said with that seventeen thousand dollars per decade that we lose out.” Dorman said. “That’s funding that children are missing out for different programs.”
The goal of the census is to ultimately count the entire population of a state or country. These counts also determine representation in Congress for each state. Population counts also play a role in redistricting efforts on state and local levels of government.
The deadline to fill out your Census is September 30. You can fill it out over the phone, by mail or online at: 2020census.gov.