What are the consequences of undercounting Latinos in the 2020 US Census?
The recent U.S. Census report confirmed what has worried many experts and advocates over the past two years, that despite achieving an accurate overall population estimate, the 2020 census suffered from under-reporting. significant count of Latinos and other racial and ethnic minorities. The undercount of Latinos was 4.99%, three times the undercount of 1.54% in 2010, a statistically significant difference.
The following quote, in reaction to the first release of the 2020 census count breakdown figures last year, speaks to the implications this undercount will have for Latino communities across the country.
“Yeah, it’s not just about losing members of Congress from state to state,” said Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-California), who previously led the Congressional Hispanic Caucus PAC. “Undercoverage means there’s less money for kids in your neighborhood, there’s less money for older people who need support in your neighborhood. This is the ultimate cost to a community.
Given the significant implications associated with the population counts generated by the census, Latino leaders and advocates are widely concerned about what this undercount could mean for their communities. In short, the undercount of Latinos has dramatic implications for health care, families, education, and political representation for at least the next decade, if not longer.
Significant Financial Implications for Medicaid
Medicaid for children accounts for a significant portion of federal funding that could be lost to states, estimated at $930 million with a more modest 3% undercount of Latinos. The funding cut is likely to hurt states like Texas that have not expanded access to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, but will also hurt states like New Mexico that have d large Hispanic and Medicaid-eligible populations.
Latinos are particularly vulnerable to declining Medicaid funding, as 17.3 million Latinos are covered by Medicaid, representing about one-third of all Medicaid recipients. A decrease in Medicaid funding will disproportionately affect Latinos, as they are more likely to have to turn to this route of coverage.
This drop in funding comes at a dire time, as Latinos already faced extreme inequity in access to health insurance nationwide – Latinos are three times more likely to have no health insurance. than white Americans. Additionally, survey data during the pandemic has consistently found that Latinos report significant losses in access to employer-purchased health coverage due to job loss, a trend that has wiped out health gains. access to insurance made by the ACA for Latinos. A large percentage of Latinos in these surveys indicated that they will turn to Medicaid to insure themselves and their children. This will increase demand for states that will have less federal funding due to undercounts of Latinos.
Fewer resources for children and families
Using Los Angeles as an example of the financial implications for other cities and states, we see how devastating the undercount will be for Latino families:
Latinos are much younger than the general US population, making any planned reduction in funding for children due to undercount disastrous for Latinos. According to the 2020 census, there are nearly 19 million Latinos under the age of 18, and Latinos make up more than a quarter of all children in the United States. A wide range of programs and policies that impact Latino youth will be impacted by undercount, including early childhood programs that are critical to Latino children’s ability to succeed later in life. The resources available for early childhood services are compounded by a large undercount in 2020 among young children in addition to the undercount for Latinos.
- Sticking to the Los Angeles County example, 259 high-risk families in the Head Start program could lose home visits due to undercount. Cuts in funding available for home visits and other early childhood programs could undermine the Biden administration’s goal of seeing universal pre-K for all families.
- In addition, broader public education is also significantly impacted by census counts, as state funding is distributed “per student”. Since some of the communities most vulnerable to census undercount are young children and Hispanics, this will likely result in less funding for K-12 schools across the country with high Latino population densities. These funds are vital to public education, as at least 8% of each school’s budget is funded by the federal allocation alone, and that number is even higher for Title I schools, which are geared toward low-income communities. income.
- The census undercount will also have a marked impact on Latinos’ access to higher education. The Pell Grant and federal student loans are all determined by census counts. According to the US Department of Education, nearly one in five Pell Grant recipients are Latino, making any reduction in funding for the program a major challenge for the Latino community.
As redistricting draws to a close across the country, the impact of undercount on the ability of these communities to elect leaders to advance their interests is already being felt. States base their decisions on maps defining political districts based on census population estimates, with the creation of districts where communities of interest (including Latinos) influence election results in their districts. The poor performance of the 2020 redistricting process has undoubtedly cost Latin American political representation over the next decade.
In Congress, Latinos are already proportionately underrepresented; while their share of the US population is about 18%, their share of the House is only 9%. Moreover, in 2016, only 321 of the 7,383 state legislators in the United States were Latino, which is only 4%. Since higher representation of Latinos in state legislatures leads to increased political participation of Latinos, the undercount will also negatively impact Latino voter turnout. Additionally, due to the apportionment process, some regions of the United States may lose seats in Congress due to undercount. In fact, Latino community leaders had expressed frustration that Latino undercount was likely to blame for declining congressional seats in Latino-influenced states, including Texas, Florida and Arizona.