When the Census and a global pandemic collide
(and what it means for kids)

This week, we take a deep dive into the 2020 Census. We'll explore how Iowans are being counted, where response rates are high — and where there's a ways to go. Learn why the Census has historically missed folks, especially babies and young children and marginalized communities, and how communities are stepping up to make sure everybody gets counted in the midst of a global pandemic. The public health emergency could be a hard blow to a complete and accurate count — but it doesn't have to be.

Be sure to scroll down to check out the interactive maps, outreach materials you can use to promote the Census in your community, and our podcast with Deborah Stein of the Partnership for America's Children. 

Here are some highlights from that conversation: 

How we got an undercount of children: "For the last four decades, the number of children counted in the Census has been dropping steadily. In 2010, we missed 2 million children under age 5. That's an enormous number of kids to be missed."

How the Covid crisis has shaken up plans to reverse the trend: "This is the first Census where we've had a big campaign to count all young children, the largest single group that's often left out. Most of the outreach we had planned was in-person. Now those plans don't work."

Why the undercount matters: "When we miss kids, that means less federal funding for children health insurance programs, foster care, child care, schools, WIC, etc. Nationally, states lost over half a billion dollars a year, every year, for a decade because we had such a big undercount in 2010."

Iowa Census 2020 so far

The Census self-response rate is the share of households who have filled out the census on their own — online or by phone or mail. The data doesn't tell us anything about those households — say if they have young children in them — but tell us how well we're doing overall at getting a complete and accurate Census count and where most outreach is needed. 


More on self-response rates

The Census Bureau will still try to count the folks who haven’t responded by the self reporting deadline — now set for October 31 — by visiting their households in person. But door-to-door efforts are costly and difficult, so higher self-response rates now mean fewer people who are ultimately likely to be missed or counted inaccurately.

Here are detailed snapshots of self-response rates from around Iowa, including Dickinson County, which currently has the state's lowest self-response rate, and several Iowa metropolitan areas where there are big differences in rates. 

On the podcast
"When we miss a child in the 2020 Census, the impact on their ability to access valuable resources — it lasts for an entire decade"

We know that even outside of public health emergency the Census is prone to missing folks. In 2010, nearly 10 percent of all young children 0-5 years — 2.2 million kids — were left uncounted. When we don’t count kids, they miss out on federal funding for vital programs like children’s health insurance, schools and child care — for an entire decade. This week on the pod, we talk with Deborah Stein at the Partnership for America’s Children, which leads the national campaign "Count All Kids" campaign. She unpacks how outreach efforts have changed during Covid, why young children are often missed (and why it matters), and how to spread the word in your community. 


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