In 2020, the federal government will undertake the monumental and important task of attempting to count each person residing within our country’s borders. An exercise that has taken place every 10 years, since 1790, and is mandated by the U.S. Constitution, it cannot be overstated how important the Census is to the well-functioning, representative democracy that our country strives to be. The Black community that the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), where I work, serves, has a lot to lose if they, like other communities of color, are not counted fairly and accurately in the 2020 Census.
As LDF’s Count on Change campaign around the last Census highlighted, Census data are primarily used for redistricting at every level of government, affecting representation for Congress, state legislative districts, and local bodies like school boards and city councils. Shortly after the Census count, elected bodies go through the hotly-contested and critically impactful process of redrawing election maps. Consequently, the Census count is the basis for every person in the United States to have representation in government.
In addition to redistricting, Census data are fundamental to the distribution of enormous resources and making critical policy decisions. The data are used by elected officials and many others to consider and build infrastructure, inform the tax structure, and administer health care, as well as to direct nearly $700 billion in federal funds for programs such as those that promote fair housing and public education — all issues that bear upon Black people.
Read more about how individuals and communities can prepare for the 2020 Census here.