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MDHCC Government Affairs Committee Update: Census

Monday, August 20, 2018   (0 Comments)
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Government Affairs Committee Update: Census


Your Chamber wants to provide opportunities for education and empowerment. The 2020 Census is going to continue to be a major area of policy concern for Hispanics who reside in the United States. The Maryland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will be tracking the issues related to the roll-out of the 2020 Census. We have attempted to capture these issues, our concerns, and why our members should follow this count. Of note, the Maryland Department of Planning has established a website for updates and everyone can sign up for updates to be emailed to their inboxes as the count progresses.

The 2020 Census is scheduled to be conducted and preparations are underway. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the federal agency responsible for conducting the once-every-10-year data collection, “The goal of the 2020 Census is to count everyone once, only once and in the right place.” The purpose of the 2020 Census is critical for us to understand. You may know that the Decennial Census exists and you may know that the count of persons residing in the United States is related to our representative form of government (our legislative districts’ formation relies on this data). Yet, you may not know how the Census impacts our member businesses, programs we seek to offer, and every-day life of Marylanders.

There has been much written about the importance of the Census, including this recent NY Times article, “Here’s Why an Accurate Census Count Is So Important.” The Census Bureau is in the business of evangelizing the importance of its work and the data collected every ten years. There is a wealth of information available through the Bureau’s website such as this study, released by the Census Bureau in preparation for the 2020 Census defines the use of the data in federal programs. As we know, many state programs follow federal program guidelines and in Maryland especially, federal programs have a tremendous impact on residents. Housing dollars and education spending programs such as Title 1 are obvious important areas of funding. Yet our Chamber must also consider that funding levels for community block grants and small business centers are governed by census population data.

So now that we know why an accurate counting of Maryland residents is critical, we need to keep a close eye on how that counting is done.

First, there is the actual form used for counting. There is major controversy regarding the addition of a new question to the Census, one that has not been utilized since the 1950 Census. The question will ask, "Is this person a citizen of the United States?" Personal politics aside, there is little doubt that this question will suppress the response rate among foreign-born residents. Although the question was approved in March, moving forward with plans for the 2020 Census have proved challenging. Unsurprisingly, lawsuits have been filed and implementation questions remain.

The methods of collection of data are also significant. The Census Bureau uses various methods to attempt to gather accurate data - questionnaires are mailed and re-sent, phone calls are made, and home visits are used if necessary. Yet, it is critical to note that the Census Bureau has a lot of discretion in outreach efforts. For example, in 2010, there was a concerted effort to reach out to historically low-response populations - including Spanish-speaking residents. That year, the Census Bureau spent one-fifth of its total advertising budget (more than $25 million) for Spanish-language media “Study: Census campaign targeting Spanish-speakers generating good response”, Washington Post, April 2010). As we know in business, marketing dollars influences results. A Pew study conducted for the 2010 Census indicated that the efforts targeting Spanish speakers was impactful and dramatically increased response rates.

So what’s next for your Chamber?

First, we are working with the Maryland Legislative Latino Caucus to monitor federal actions and ensure that Maryland responds in an appropriate way. We are providing our feedback to the Maryland Department of Planning and appropriate legislative leaders.

Second, we must be a solution in the discussion of outreach to our communities. As preparations commence, your Chamber seeks to be at the front of the room with our hands raised to help. We are reaching out to the State to propose marketing opportunities to communicate the importance of being counted.

Third, we need our members engaged on this issue. As you learn more, get involved with your Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee and contact Board member Katie Nash at

In addition to the articles and studies included above, here are some additional resources for your education:

Information On the Decennial Census
Comprehensive Analysis from The Atlantic


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