Census Undercount Will Cost Texas Billions | New

Texas will lose tens of billions of dollars in federal funding over the next decade due to census undercount, experts say.

In May, the U.S. Census Bureau’s post-count survey reported that Texas’s population was likely undercounted by 1.92% in the 2020 census, or about 548,000 people.

Texas-based economic consultancy The Perryman Group will impact the Lone Star State’s budget for the next 10 years.

“From an economic perspective, the consequences are profound,” Ray Perryman, chairman and CEO of The Perryman Group, said in a report. “This shortfall will affect the variety of major federal funding mechanisms that are driven by population estimates.”

The census is a constitutional survey of where each person lives on April 1, regardless of their citizenship status. Figures obtained from the census are used to distribute approximately $700 billion in annual federal funds among more than 300 programs. These programs support social services such as subsidized school meals; the Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC); the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); the Head Start program for low-income children under age 5; student and home loans; and infrastructure and transport projects.

The undercount will likely cost Texas $27.4 billion in direct losses over ten years and more than $128 billion indirectly over ten years, according to the Perryman Group’s analysis.

This includes:

  • $58.9 billion for health.

  • $4.4 billion for housing.

  • $5.5 billion for food and nutrition programs.

  • $3.7 billion for infrastructure projects

  • $53.8 billion for education and vocational training

  • $2.0 billion for social programs.

“Average people often don’t realize the magnitude of the funds flowing from the federal level to the states for disbursements and the importance of census population numbers in some of these transfers,” Perryman told CNHI News. “They also may not think about how detrimental reduced funding can be because of the downstream effects.”

Less funding for nutrition, education, social services, health care and other programs, for example, can lead to lower productivity, efficiency and poorer health. Less funding for infrastructure programs could also cost local business owners and households, as access is restricted. Since state and local governments depend on business activity to generate tax revenue, they could also be negatively affected, the report concludes.

Ultimately, these obstacles are estimated to cost the state nearly $60 billion in gross proceeds over ten years and $35.9 billion in personal income.

Additionally, Perryman said the data represented projected population growth in his models, adding that Texas’ population growth will “certainly strain social service networks, compounding the situation caused by undercounting.”

“Underlying needs for health care and education, for example, don’t go away just because Texas receives less from the federal government,” Perryman said. “People and their public service needs are there whether they are counted or not. What is left for the state is either to meet these needs with public funds or to leave some of the most vulnerable residents with inadequate care, for example, which then reduces productivity.


Katie Martin Lightfoot, senior director of engagement and advocacy for Every Texan, said beyond the impact on congressional representation — the undercount has cost Texas an extra seat in the House of Representatives. — it impacts Texans in many other ways.

Children, for example, are one of the largest undercounted groups in the national census. This means less funding for schools and affordable child care.

Transportation departments use census data for highway planning and construction, and businesses use it to determine where to expand their operations.

“Texans should care about an undercount because it ensures fair program funding,” she said. “All Texans have better funding.”

Another sector that will probably be strongly impacted on the housing market. Federal funds help create affordable housing options through community development block grants, housing and urban development grants, and others.

With the housing market in Texas already squeezed due to high demand, a weak labor force and rising costs from supply chain issues, fewer federal dollars that could have helped ease the pressure go unnoticed, said Roger Arriaga, executive director of Texas Affiliation of Affordable Housing Providers.

TAAHP Communications Director Naomi Bludworth added that as affordable housing becomes less accessible, these people will begin to move into traditional housing markets, exacerbating competition for the few options available.

It also means that those who qualify for affordable housing due to their income status but can only find a more expensive living option will spend a higher percentage of their overall income on housing. This could affect their ability to pay for other necessities – pushing them further towards social services – as well as minimizing their disposable income, which reduces their purchasing power.

“It’s a trickle down effect,” Bludworth said. “When there aren’t enough affordables, people who qualify for affordables walk out taking units at market price that they wouldn’t otherwise. This reduces the supply, [and] it makes everything go up.

Arriaga added that when people are unable to find adequate housing in their price range, they tend to leave, likely to other states, further impacting Texas’ economic output.

“At some point, there’s going to be kind of a broad movement that says, ‘It’s unaffordable for us to live in Texas, so maybe we need to look at other options,'” Arriaga said.


The US Census Bureau conducts a post-enumeration survey for quality control purposes by measuring census accuracy. It independently surveys a sample of the population and estimates the proportion of people and housing units potentially missed or erroneously counted in the census.

The PES audits 161,000 households nationwide – out of a total of 141 million – so the sample survey represents about 0.11% of all housing units in the United States.

In addition, the United States Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that the small sample used for the statistical investigation of an overcount or undercount after the release of census results cannot be used to census products, said Kristina Barrett, public affairs specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau.

This means that the results of the EPS cannot influence or modify the official results of the census.

Of the 50 states and the District of Columbia counted in the census, 37 states or state equivalents did not estimate statistically significant overcounts or undercounts, but 14 did. Of the six that reported an undercount, Texas had the smallest percentage of undercounts, the data showed.

Although there is no current mechanism to update the data, Perryman said the process of taking the census could be improved and he said he hoped his analysis would show why such advances are needed. .

“The calculation of total losses is important in illustrating the essential nature of investing in programs to improve response rates in the future,” Perryman said. “While there is no further census until 2030, this recognition could help set the framework for such investments in the future.”

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