By Mark Richardson
Making sure all children are counted is a major goal for the 2020 Census.
The number of young children missed in previous counts has grown steadily, and Arizona officials are particularly worried about missing those in Native American families.
“It is extremely important for Native communities to get counted in the 2020 Census because of funding appropriations from the federal government.”
Angela Willeford, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community
An estimated 2 million children weren’t counted in the 2010 Census, with higher rates among some racial groups.
Angela Willeford, intergovernmental relations manager for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, says tribal leaders believe getting an accurate count of children in the population is an investment in their future.
“If we have 200 births in 2020, we know in five years we’re going to have influx of kindergarten students, so we’re going to have to make sure we plan for that,” she states. “Historically, kids are the number one undercounted population.”
Willeford says Salt River officials estimate that as much as 40% of their community was under-counted in the 2010 Census. Nationwide, it’s estimated Native American families were undercounted by nearly 5%.
Many residents on reservations get their mail through Post Office boxes, but this year, with sheltering in place during the pandemic, they may not have received their census forms yet.
“It is extremely important for Native communities to get counted in the 2020 Census because of funding appropriations from the federal government,” she states. “We want to ensure that we have an accurate account. And by doing that, we are protecting our future.”
Deborah Stein, network director with Partnership for America’s Children, says while the data is limited, it’s clear that children of color are especially vulnerable to not being counted.
“We’re missing all of them, but we absolutely are missing more Black and Hispanic children,” she states. “The bureau did not develop data on other racial and ethnic groups, but we believe they also probably got missed at higher rates.”
The census serves as a road map for distributing federal funding, as well as determining the number of congressional and legislative seats for each state. Arizona Native American communities hope a more accurate count will lead to wider representation for their members.
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