Census and the Coronavirus

Urban and Public Affairs graduate student Tyler (’21) concludes our series on Census2020 with his guest blog post based on coursework from “The Census and Social Justice”. Tyler reacts to COVID-19 and suggests a simple solution to keep the census collection efforts, strong and robust.

The coronavirus couldn’t have arrived at a worst time for many things within the country. One of these things that has yet to receive the necessary public attention it should, is how the coronavirus is going to impact the census. The census has had rough experiences before and narrowly escaped major events within the United States, but as of March, we found ourselves at the beginning of a pandemic with no clear end in sight, and the giant undertaking of the census right around the corner.

Outreach is critical to the success of Census2020, touching base and counting every hard to reach population but with a pandemic that literally centers social distancing as a means of protecting people and slowing the virus, this places two critical things at fundamental odds with one another. How do community volunteers, who are not prepared for such a pandemic, and enumerators prepare for such a situation? We could hardly imagine door-knocking in full protective equipment, but it is important to consider how can the census safely performs operations in the best way possible.

In what should be first steps to address this, the census should be apart of any emergency relief planning effort. As it stands, the census is critical to reacting to major disasters and providing relief, and therefore the census needs to be considered during emergency allocations to combat COVID-19. It should receive emergency funding to help offset performance issues, as well as expanding the frame of time that the census must complete. We must understand that these operations we rely on to protect people in a time of crisis can only operate only as good as the information they have, and the census is critical to that. The census needs to be ensured during these trying times in order to best protect the community.

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