On behalf of [ORGANIZATION], I strongly urge the U.S. Department of Commerce to remove any question regarding citizenship status from the 2020 Census form. The untested question will make an accurate count less possible and put thousands of New Jersey’s youngest children at risk for undercounting. Because of New Jersey’s diverse population of young children, the deterrent effect of the citizenship question may have an outsize impact on children under age 5.
[ PROVIDE BACKGROUND ON YOUR ORGANIZATION AND WHY THE CENSUS MATTERS FOR YOU AND THE CHILDREN/FAMILIES YOU SERVE]
I strongly urge the Commerce Department to remove the citizenship question from the 2020 Census form. Including an untested, controversial question will undermine the quality and accuracy of the census in every community. The Census Bureau's own Chief Scientist has warned of lower response rates, higher costs, and a less accurate census if the citizenship question is included. I am concerned that this question will make it even harder to get a full count of young children. The 2010 Census had a net undercount of 1 million children. This question threatens to make that undercount worse in 2020 for New Jersey, where over 40 percent of births are to foreign-born mothers.
Including a citizenship question puts the census at grave risk of a significant undercount, especially young children, a population that has historically been undercounted, and among hard-to-reach population groups that already are fearful of answering government surveys, according to the bureau's own research.
In New Jersey, young children frequently live in hard-to-count Census tracts, defined as tracts in which fewer than 73 percent of mailed census forms were returned. Twenty-eight percent of the total population of children under age 5, or more than 148,000 children, lived in a hard-to-count New Jersey census tract. In some communities, such as Newark and Camden, more than 90 percent of children lived in a hard-to-count tract.
Undercounts have serious consequences, including affecting the allocation of more than $800 billion in federal funds allocated to states and localities based on census data. Programs serving children that might be affected include the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG); Head Start; Title 1 grants to local education agencies; Special Education Grants (IDEA); the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Special Supplemental Nutrition Program; Foster Care; and. Children also benefit from programs that serve adults as well as children that might be affected such as Medicaid and Section 8 Housing.
The public should not be asked to answer, or pay for, a census that does not meet scientifically sound standards. This decision is bad for the census, bad for our communities, and bad for America.
In addition, I commend the Census Bureau for altering the wording on the 2020 Census form in an effort to accurately count young children that have long been undercounted. This is an important first step, although by no means enough without further action.
Lastly, I strongly request that the Census Bureau revamp its communications research and outreach to include special attention to the undercount of young children.