The 2020 Census is closing in on us. And for a whole host of reasons, from highway and school funding to congressional representation, the need for an accurate national headcount cannot be overstated.

But as the Harrisburg-based activist group Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children points out in a new data drop, one group — children of color — have been consistently undercounted in the decennial population tally.

“Children of color have been historically undercounted by the census,” the advocacy group said in a statement. “Not only are people of color consistently undercounted, but non-Hispanic whites have been consistently over counted, further compounding the problem. The rate of uncounted young kids in urban areas is double or triple the national figure, and that kids of color are also more likely to be missed.”

According to PPC, that undercount happens for several reasons. But, in general, “many communities of color have endured a long history of inequitable treatment from governmental authorities resulting in significant distrust that has adversely impacted participation in the Census,” the group said.

Some specific factors among various communities of color that contribute to that undercount, PPC said.

Among them:

  • “African Americans are statistically less likely to have internet access at home, an increasingly important factor as much of the Census moves online;
  • Latinos are more likely to be immigrants and therefore non-English speakers; and
  • some Asian immigrants come from countries that do not have a census system,” PPC observed.

Here’s why that matters: For every kid who wasn’t counted in the 2010 Census, Pennsylvania lost $1,746 a head in federal funding for Medicaid, CHIP, foster care and adoption services, and childcare, PPC said. A decade ago, Pennsylvania undercounted 25,197 children, for a loss of nearly $44 million in federal funding.

“If there is a child living in your home on April 1, 2020, that kid counts,” PPC said in its statement.

John L. Micek is Editor-in-Chief of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this column first appeared.

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