Immigrant Undercount

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People from immigrant-based communities have historically been named among the "Hard-to-Count" (HTC) populations in the Census. As the immigrant population has grown over the years, more attention has been given by both the Census Bureau, local and state governments, advocates and community-based organizations to outreach efforts to ensure a more inclusive count.

Failing to reach HTC populations in the 2020 Census would hurt states like California the most, which has the largest immigrant population in the country. Sarah Bohn, the director of research at the Public Policy Institute of California, explains the consequences of an undercount as, “If there’s a bad count overall and immigrant communities are undercounted, it would be entirely possible for us to lose a seat in Congress.” 

Click here to find more information on Hard-To-Count populations and a tool for mapping HTC populations.

Latinos in particular have been undercounted for decades, resulting in disadvantages for their family and community. In 2010, 1.5 percent of the Hispanic population was undercounted. In 2000, 0.7 percent of the Hispanic population was undercounted and in 1990, 5 percent of the Hispanic population was undercounted. Today, 56.5 million Hispanics reside in the U.S and around one in three live in HTC Census tracts. 

Many factors make the Latino community hard to count, including language barriers. Historically, areas with low rates of English proficiency are undercounted and around one third of Hispanics speak English less than “very well”. In addition, households in poverty and areas with lower educational attainment are harder to enumerate. 

Immigrant status is one of the most significant factors contributing to the Latino population’s Hard-To-Count status. 34 percent of Latinos in the U.S are foreign born and Latin American immigrants make up more than half of the undocumented population. A report by the Administrative Records, Internet and Hard to Count Population Working Group found that:

“..legal status is a key issue in many communities with larger immigrant populations. Not only are these persons difficult to match via administrative records due to lack of social security numbers, but they are also fearful of filling out their census forms because they are afraid of detention and deportation if located by the government. They are also more likely to be lower income, and therefore have less internet resources. The lower access to matching records, lower internet access at home, and fear of filling out the census makes this group very vulnerable to be undercounted. This could disproportionally impact counts of the Latino and Asian populations in particular.”