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How the Census Undercount Leaves Minority Communities Worse Off – Mother Jones

How the Census Undercount Leaves Minority Communities Worse Off – Mother Jones

How the Census Undercount Leaves Minority Communities Worse Off – Mother Jones

On November 17, 2021, Michael Regan (EPA Administrator) speaks with a resident from Gordon Plaza, a neighborhood that was built on a toxic dump.Eric Vance/US EPA/Planet Pix via ZUMA Press

This story was first published by Grist and is reproduced here as part ofThe Climate Desk collaboration.

It’s hard to overstate the Significance of the US census in guiding how the country is governed. A granular enumeration of the national population that’s undertaken once per decade, the census count is intended to apportion political representation and guide the fair distribution of trillions of dollars in government funding to cities, states, and tribes. The 2020 census results, which were announced last year, are also poised to play a key role in the Biden administration’s signature environmental justice program, which promises that at least 40 percent of the benefits of government spending on infrastructure, clean energy, and other climate-related programs will be Directions to census tracts with low income.

Given the high stakes involved, even minor deviations between the census count and the country’s actual demographics can have substantial knock-on effects. Thursday will see the A statistical analysis was released by the US Census Bureau that illuminated a persistent trend in the undertaking: the undercounting of people of color. Black Americans, Latinos, Indigenous people living on reservation were all undercounted by approximately 3, 5, and 6 percentage, respectively. These undercounts are consistent in 2010 results, but Latinos suffered a much greater undercount than 2010, when it was only 1.5 percent. The most recent census showed that Asian Americans and White Americans were overcounted.

Language barriers, low literacy rates, lack or access to the internet, and distrust of federal government may all be reasons for census undercounts. The Census Bureau was able pinpoint miscounts using a post-census survey that asked a sample of people where their homes were on the day of census. This information was then compared to the information from the initial effort.  

The following are the highlights Persistence of extreme residential segregation in the US, low population tallies in communities of color can drive divestment and divert much-needed dollars for things like Affordable housingTransportationhealth careenvironmental remediation. Projects for environmental justice like Lead pipes can be replacedClean up contaminated soilupdating failing sewage systemsFortifying housing stock against heat waves, storms, and floods could also suffer. If districts are drawn using incomplete data, it is possible for communities of color to have diluted representation.

Fawn Sharp, president of The National Congress of American Indians, issued this statement. Statement last week saying the results “confirm our worst fears.”

“Despite the challenges of the 2020 Census, [American Indians and Alaska Natives] living on reservation lands deserve to be counted and to receive their fair share of federal resources,” she added.

Even if the undercounts are not significant, the latest census shows that population trends can have a destabilizing effect on environmental policymaking. Nine of the ten US cities that have the highest Black populations have seen significant declines in Black residents since 2000. Chicago and Detroit were the two largest cities to lose Black residents in that time. Black residents are leaving big cities across the country because of concerns about violence, lack of safe and affordable housing, and health and economic problems that result from their high exposure to toxic and polluted areas.  

In one census tract in Chicago’s Englewood communityThe 97 percent Black population was in 2010 at the exodus is particularly apparent. A decade ago, the corner at Normal Boulevard and 57th Street was adorned with greenery and homes. 400 homes were demolished in order to make room for a freight yard expansion. In that time, the area’s census tract 1,600 Black residents were lostDespite having a total population of 1,400, this was due to an increase in Latino and white residents. 

The railyard’s expansion exacerbated pollution in the community, which already suffered from proximity to hazardous waste and experienced more diesel pollution than roughly 95 percent of the country, according to Environmental Protection Agency data. Longtime Englewood resident Deborah Payne told GristAfter the railway was built, she was forced from her home to move. She also said that the pollution was a contributing factor to the exodus. 

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“We were always affected by dust and pollution,” she said. “It was noisy and dusty, they didn’t do anything to keep up greenery, and it affected the community because a lot of people around there would go up on most freight trains and open them up to take things.” 

While environmental issues might be driving some of the migration of Black people out of cities, the suburbs to which they’re moving don’t reliably offer refuge. In Chicago’s case, thousands of Black residents are choosing to move to neighboring areas facing their own acute environmental challenges: Joliet, Illinois, a warehouse and logistics hub where industry has left the city We are in desperate need of fresh water sourcesThe population of, has increased by only 3,000 residents since 2010, while the Black population has increased by 2,200.

In other words, while census undercounts jeopardize the tool’s effectiveness, the count has nevertheless illuminated patterns and challenges that policymakers will want to take into account.

“How could anyone not be concerned?” Census Bureau Director Robert Santos said of the shortcomings when announcing the Bureau’s analysis last week. “These findings will put some of those concerns to rest and leave others for further exploration.”

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