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Policy Issue: Census

Publication date: 
May, 2019
Census 2020

It is difficult to overstate the importance of a fair and accurate census count. When census information is not accurate, it threatens to muffle the voices of undercounted groups and regions and undermine the basic political equality that is central to our democracy. Institutions across the country - including local and state governments, businesses, nonprofits, and foundations - routinely rely on data from the census to allocate funding, define where services are delivered and promote economic development.

The Census Bureau is facing a daunting set of challenges as it prepares for the 2020 Census. Since the bureau is facing budget constraints like never before, it is planning to collect the majority of census information online, scale back door-to-door outreach, and roll back canvassing. These changes increase the potential of undercounting children, immigrants, low-income individuals, people of color, people living in rural areas, and other marginalized individuals. Given the current political climate, regional and national philanthropy-serving organizations (PSOs) and their members are needed to advocate and educate elected officials and community leaders on the importance and impact of the 2020 Census on their communities. Even without the changes being proposed for the 2020 Census, we know there were gross undercounts of vulnerable populations in the 2010 census. This is why the 2020 census matters to philanthropy.

Forum’s Policy Position

United Philanthropy Forum supports a fair and accurate census count.

Accurate census data are an essential foundation for fair political representation and the fair allocation of government resources at the national, state and local levels.  Census data are required for implementation and enforcement of most civil rights laws, including the Voting Rights Act and fair housing, education, and employment laws.  At least $800 billion in federal program funds are allocated each year to states, localities and Tribal areas based in whole or in part on census data. State governments also distribute public funds to localities using census data. Businesses depend on accurate census and American Community Survey (ACS) data to make prudent decisions on location, hiring, products and services, and capital investment. Nonprofits rely on the data to identify special community needs and target services.  Historically, the census has missed disproportionate numbers of people of color, immigrants, young children (especially Latino and Black children), people with low incomes and low educational attainment, and rural households, exacerbating inequities.

PSO Policy Positions and Resouces
Census Citizenship Question

Amicus Curiae Brief

30 foundations and philanthropy serving organizations (PSOs), including United Philanthropy Forum and eight Forum members, signed an amicus curiae brief that was submitted to the Supreme Court. By outlining the ways in which philanthropy relies on and utilizes census data, the “friends of the court” brief makes the case to uphold the lower courts’ rulings to set aside the untested citizenship question from the 2020 Census.

Forum Statement

Adding Citizenship Question Will Impede a Fair and Accurate Census Count

PSO Sign-On Letter
33 PSO organizations signed on to a letter opposing the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Legislation in the 116th Congress

Prepared by Terri Ann Lowenthal, this fact sheet provides information on the FY 2020 appropriations process for funding the 2020 Census. 

Census News and Resources
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