The 2020 census came to an early end Oct. 15, and Dallas County’s self-response rate appears to be the biggest loser in North Texas.
With a rate of 63.9%, Dallas County had the lowest self-response rate of the four most populous counties in North Texas, trailing Collin County (73.8%), Denton County (71.4%) and Tarrant County (68.8%).
Self-response rates reflect households that responded to the census online, by mail or by phone. These response rates do not include households that were visited in person by census workers and are not the official census counts.
Through last Monday, 67% of American households had responded through self-response, and 32.9% were visited in person, according to the Census Bureau.
Of the four counties, Dallas had a lower self-response rate than the previous 2010 census. Collin, Denton and Tarrant counties had high self-response rates this year compared with the previous census — albeit by margins no greater than 2%.
The overall self-response rate in Texas was 62.8%, lower than the 64.4% rate in the 2010 census.
Though the figures may seem small, every person undercounted in this year’s census equates to a loss of about $15,000 in federal funding over the next decade, according to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. Even an undercount of 1% of the county could mean a loss of $400 million in federal dollars over the next 10 years.
The loss of those funds could affect day cares, clinics, food stamps and senior citizen support, among a long list of programs that count on federal help, according to Edward Rincón, president of Rincón & Associates.
“You see long lines of people collecting food. People are already suffering because of the pandemic,” Rincón said, adding that an undercount will only compound that. “It’s going to really strap our ability to do business as usual.”
After the Supreme Court last week ruled that the Trump administration could end census field operations early, the Census Bureau said operations would end Oct. 15.
Ending operations early surely contributed to an undercount, and now another decision by the court could further exacerbate underrepresentation, according to Rincón.
The Supreme Court will be taking up President Donald Trump’s policy, blocked by a lower court, to exclude people living in the U.S. illegally from the census count that will be used to allocate seats in the House of Representatives.
Never in U.S. history have immigrants been excluded from the population count that determines how House seats, and by extension Electoral College votes, are divided among the states, a three-judge federal court said in September when it held Trump’s policy illegal.
“Due to our population, this could cost DFW billions in tax dollars,” Jenkins said in a statement two weeks ago.
The justices put the case on a fast track, setting arguments for Nov. 30. A decision is expected by the end of the year or early January, when the Trump administration has to report census numbers to the House.
“We were already behind the eight ball going into this,” Rincón said of a likely undercount.
If noncitizens are excluded from this year’s census, the Dallas-Fort Worth area could be underrepresented by about 1 million immigrants, and about 3 million total in the Lone Star State, according to Rincón.
“The potential numbers are very large on exclusion,” Rincón said. “It’s not like these immigrants are going to move away if they’re not counted.”
During a Wednesday conference call with the press, the Census Bureau declined to comment on any pending litigation regarding the census.
Collecting the data was only the first step for the Census Bureau. Now, the data must be analyzed, checked and validated.
“The census is not over,” said Albert E. Fontenot, associate director for decennial programs for the bureau. “We have work to do.”
While some researchers and analysts like Rincón have concerns about the accuracy of the data, Fontenot, during Wednesday’s conference call, said the bureau ensures complete accuracy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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