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Census 2020 Data Reveals Higher Rates of Undercounts

While the state-level data won’t be released until this summer, the national data paints a picture of higher rates of undercounts for several demographic groups than what we saw in 2010. 

A collage of people

It was two years ago on April 1 when Census 2020 counts officially kicked off following a multi-year campaign led by Michigan nonprofits and philanthropy to try and ensure an equitable and accurate census. While the state-level data won’t be released until this summer, the national data paints a picture of higher rates of undercounts for several demographic groups than what we saw in 2010. 

The data released by the Census Bureau are from the Post-Enumeration Survey (PES) and Demographic Analysis Estimates (DA) and estimate how well the 2020 Census counted everyone in the nation and in certain demographic groups. They estimate the size of the U.S. population and then compare those estimates to the census counts.

The PES estimates the population using a sample survey, while DA estimates the population using vital records and other data.

The results show that the 2020 Census undercounted people of color, specifically the Black population, the American Indian or Alaska Native population living on a reservation, the Hispanic or Latinx population and people who reported being of “some other race.” 
Toplines from the PES Data:

•    The Black or African American had an undercount of 3.3% compared to a 2.06% undercount in 2010.

•    The Hispanic or Latinx population had an undercount rate of 4.99% compared to 1.54% undercount in 2010. 

•    American Indian or Alaska Native populations living on reservations had an undercount rate of 5.64% compared to 4.88% in 2010. The American Indian or Alaska Native population alone or in combination living in American Indian areas, but not living on reservations, was not statistically different compared to the 2010 count. 

•    The non-Hispanic White alone population had an overcount rate of 1.64% compared to an overcount of 0.83% in 2010.

•    The Asian alone or in combination population had an overcount rate of 2.62% compared to 0.00% in 2010.

•    The Native Hawaiian or “other Pacific Islander” alone or in combination population had an estimated overcount rate of 1.28% compared to an estimated 1.02% overcount rate in 2010.

The PES and DA data results also show undercounts and overcounts for various age groups, genders, and homeowners and renters for the 2020 Census. 

In addition to this data, the Census Bureau released new statistics from the 2016–2020 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates which provides key insights into how those who participated may be different from those who did not and allowed an adjustment to make the data more representative of the entire population.

According to a press release, following pandemic-related data collection disruptions, the Census Bureau revised its methodology to reduce nonresponse bias in data collected in 2020. The 2016–2020 ACS 5-year estimates show changes in median household income, poverty rates and race and ethnicity.

The recently released PES data is the first round of undercount data and additional results with state-level information on undercounts will be released this summer. 

Census data helps determine how federal funding will be spent on critical federal programs, such as food assistance, housing vouchers, Head Start, healthcare and much more. This data also helps shape economic development projects as businesses use it to help determine where they should locate or expand.

As a result of the 2020 Census, Michigan lost a seat in Congress due to the state’s slow population growth. 

The first data release comes after a comprehensive, multi-year effort by Michigan’s Nonprofits Complete Count Campaign (NPCCC), a state and local effort led by the Michigan Nonprofit Association and supported by many CMF members, focused on increasing Census participation rates in underrepresented communities in Michigan.

The NPCCC was launched in 2017 with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The campaign was supported by more than 40 CMF members and the Michigan Legislature.

More than 11 CMF member community foundations served or partnered as regional hubs through the NPCCC in their region, working with organizations on the ground to increase awareness and education around Census participation.

Want more?

Read more about the Post-Enumeration Survey data.

Read more about the data from the 2016-202 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.