2020 CENSUS UPDATE: Hard-to-Count Communities
WHITE PLAINS, NY -- (5/10/20) -- Every ten years, the U.S. Census Bureau is tasked with counting every person in the United States and recording basic information such as race, sex, and age. The population and demographic information is used to ensure that every community is given full representation in the halls of government and make decisions regarding the distribution of public funds for education, healthcare, law enforcement, highways, and other programs. The Census Bureau estimates that every person that is not counted equals a loss of approximately $2,500 per year to local municipalities. This means that every 400 people who are not counted equates to a loss of about $1,000,000 in funding each year. The first step in ensuring an accurate count is the inclusion of hard-to-count individuals. Groups that are especially difficult to gather data for include people of African descent, Latinx communities, young men, historically marginalized groups, lower income persons, homeless persons, undocumented immigrants, renters, young mobile persons, and children. Some people might be hard-to-count for several reasons. Some populations could be hard to locate due to transience or inaccessibility. Other populations could be hard to persuade to participate or difficult to interview due to lack of a shared language. Whatever the reason, there are hard-to-count populations in each state, which means there are hard-to-count populations in every county, city, town, village, and hamlet. Westchester County has its fair share of “Hard-to-Count” (HTC) municipalities. According to the Census Bureau, a municipality is considered “Hard-To-Count” if the mail return rate for the 2010 Census was at or below 73%. In 2010, only 67.9% of Westchester County’s residents participated in the Census. Westchester was slightly ahead of the statewide response rate of 64.6% and the nationwide response rate of 66.5%. The 2020 Census team is hopeful that the additional options of completing the questionnaire by phone (1-844-330-2020) and online (https://my2020census.gov) will increase overall response rates, particularly for the HTC municipalities. Some of Westchester’s smaller HTC areas can be found in Bedford, Mt. Kisco, New Rochelle, and Yorktown. Larger towns and cities, such as Greenburgh, Mt. Vernon, Peekskill, Port Chester, White Plains, and Yonkers face a larger HTC challenge. As of May 7, 2020, Croton-on-Hudson leads all municipalities in Westchester with a 74.2% 2020 Census response rate, which is better than its overall 2010 response rate of 72.6%. The goal is for Croton-on-Hudson to continue increasing its response rate by reaching out to the HTC populations within its borders, particularly the central corridor. Likewise, Mt. Vernon has the opportunity to increase its 42.9% response rate by reaching out to the non-responsive and HTC populations within its borders, particularly the central and south west corridors. Westchester County Legislator Lyndon Williams, who represents Mt. Vernon’s 13th District, stated, “Ten years ago, Mount Vernon had the lowest response rate in the County and one of the lowest in the United States. As the result, we lost millions of dollars in Federal Funding and continue to suffer economic decline.” Westchester officials representing cities, villages, and towns are keenly aware that a high 2020 Census response rate will yield more representation and funding for their constituents for the next 10 years. The next task involves convincing Westchester’s residents that it’s in their best interests to join the count.