NEW YORK — Children under five are the largest age group to be missed in the U.S. Census, so children’s advocates are making concerted efforts to increase participation this year.
The census is supposed to count every person of any age living in the United States. The data not only determines congressional representation, it allocates the share each state receives of federal resources especially important to families — Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance and child care.
Deborah Stein, network director for Partnership for America’s Children, points out that census data also is used to direct those federal dollars to communities where they’re most needed.
“That includes schools, special education, early intervention, the WIC program, which provides nutrition for low-income pregnant moms and young children,” she states.
Stein adds young African-American and Hispanic children are more than twice as likely to be missed in the census count as white children.
The advocacy group Make the Road New York has been doing outreach to improve participation in the immigrant community. But Antonio Alarcon, census coordinator for the group, says the COVID-19 pandemic has halted in-person workshops and canvassing.
“We have been shifting our work online,” he explains. “We’ve been reaching out via phone, finding other alternatives to keep educating community members about the importance of the census.”
Many immigrants fear their information will be shared with immigration authorities, but citizenship details are not being collected and all census information is kept private by law.
The privacy protections for the census are the strongest in federal law. Stein emphasizes that Census Bureau staff members aren’t allowed to release any individual information for 72 years.
“And the penalty for releasing that information is spending up to five years in jail or paying a fine of up to quarter of a million dollars,” he states.
To ensure a complete count, the Census Bureau has extended the period for self-response to the census questionnaire — by phone, mail or online — to Aug. 14.