A recent court ruling bars the census from ending early, but the Trump administration has appealed it and the fate of the current census remains uncertain. Therefore, NEAT is proud to endorse a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate recently by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (Hawaii-D), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska-R), and Dan Sullivan (Alaska-R). If passed, the bill would extend all of the statutory deadlines for the Census by four months, and require that field work continue through the end of this month. A companion bill was also introduced in the House of Representatives.
The 2020 Census was understandably and undeniably impacted by the COVID pandemic. Most of the country was on lockdown during the peak time that the Census should have been conducted. The current administration wants to end the Census in October and call it done. Obviously, there are grave concerns that an improper census will negatively impact an unknown number of people in the country in an unknown variety of ways.
What is the U.S. Census and Why is it Important?
The law requires that (nearly) everyone in the country be counted every 10 years. This is important because it makes population the directive of how many seats are in the House of Representative and where, and how over $1 trillion in US taxpayer dollars are spent. But, in addition, the data has a considerable impact on an entire bucket of other issues, like business decisions in the private sector, diversity and inclusion assessments, healthcare projections, academic analyses, and the list goes on.
The original Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution reads:
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.
Note that the original document said the count must include all “free Persons,” but excluded indigenous people (unless they paid taxes) and only count all others (e.g., enslaved people) as 3/5 of a person.
In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified which modified the language to be:
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.
Now, the only exclusion is non-taxed indigenous people--everyone else is counted (“whole number of persons”). It’s important that both the original and the revision have broad language when referring to people--neither say citizens.
What about LGBTQ+ Individuals and the Census?
In recent years, there are progressive calls to include “SOGI” data in the census. SOGI is an acronym for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. Unfortunately, that was not realized for this census, but we can continue to press for SOGI data to be included in 2030. A well-known quote on the topic of demographic data: “You have to be counted to count.”
Even though Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) data is not yet included, it is imperative that the Census be completed as thoroughly and accurately as possible. Once that battle has been won, we can move on to improving future cycles.