After census takers attempted to complete their jobs last year, they were left worried that apartment renters were left undercounted.
With Covid restrictions they were unable to enter many apartment buildings in order to knock on doors, or when they called to speak with property managers they were told that their questions were not going to be answered.
There are many consequences to undercounting renters. The census helps determine how $1.5 trillion in federal money is spent on things like roads and education, and if it is believed that there are less people living in an area than there actually are, that area will end up receiving less money.
Renters are already harder to count because they tend to be more transient and live below the poverty line. They also happen to be disproportionately people of color, who are also likely to be undercounted by the census.
In 2010 renters were undercounted by 1.1%, but rates were higher for Black male renters between the ages of 30 and 49 at 12.2%, and Hispanic male renters between the ages of 18 and 29 at 8.6%.
When census takers were unable to interview individuals that had not filled out the questionnaire, they were forced to use more unreliable methods.
Census takers used administrative records from the IRS or Social Security Administrations as well as asking neighbors and postal workers for information as a last resort.
The 2020 figures used to decide the number of congressional seats each state gets had clear results for what happens when people are undercounted.
If 89 more people had been counted in the State of New York, they would not have lost a congressional seat.
A census worker in Denver expressed frustration when she was not allowed to contact apartment managers herself to change vacant or occupied apartments in the database to help other workers not waste their time.
Her supervisor informed her that her job was to “knock on doors.”
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