Citing insufficient data from past U.S. Census counts in certain communities, the Los Angeles City Council Tuesday directed the mayor’s office to draw up funding plans for door-to-door canvassing efforts in chronically undercounted areas.
“Due to the importance of an accurate census, local, state and tribal governments have historically assisted the U.S. Census Bureau by conducting local outreach efforts,” according to the unanimously passed motion. “The Census has historically suffered from disproportionately under-counting minority communities.”
The motion brought forth by council members Jose Huizar, Gilbert Cedillo, Nury Martinez, Monica Rodriguez and Curren Price — and approved on a 10-0 vote, with five members absent — says Los Angeles is home to the largest hard-to-count population in the nation, and an undercount can cost the city millions of dollars.
Minority communities in Los Angeles have been undercounted in previous censuses due to their high concentration of renters, socioeconomic status, limited English proficiency and immigration status issues, according to the motion.
The proposed addition of a question regarding citizenship status has the potential to discourage the participation of minority communities, and the reliance on electronic submittal could make participation difficult for communities without reliable access to computers or the internet, the motion says.
“Communities like mine have been historically undercounted — in the 2010 Census, neighborhoods in the Northeast San Fernando Valley scored among the highest in low census participation,” Rodriguez said when the motion was introduced earlier this month. “Further, the transition to the online survey and the proposed immigration question will further inhibit low income communities from being tallied in the Census. We must correct this failure to ensure that we get the public safety resources we deserve and that all Angelenos are counted in 2020.”
Martinez shared those concerns.
“This puts the lives of our most underserved residents on the line, because they are the ones who are constantly receiving the short end of the stick when it comes to receiving access to government representation, investment in education and community development. If we are undercounted our kids don’t get their fair share, and we lose access to our most crucial resources,” she said.
The motion requests that the Mayor’s Office Census 2020 Initiative report to the City Council with a funding plan for door-to-door outreach and education efforts in chronically undercounted areas and, if necessary, a report on what additional funding the city needs to provide to ensure a comprehensive outreach effort.
The state of California has allocated $90.3 million for 2020 Census outreach, according to the motion.