The New York Voting Rights Consortium, which brings together many local civil groups, has warned that New York could lose millions of dollars if communities of color are undercounted in the 2010 Census.
As of April 5, 2010, the participation rate in New York’s most undercounted counties was far below the national average, the group said after a preliminary study of returns for the current census exercise.
Although the census mailings were due on Friday, April 1st, households have until April 15th to return their census forms before a census worker may return to their home.
“An undercount in 2010 will have a direct impact on resources in communities where they are needed most,” said John Payton, President and Director Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) and a member of the consortium.
He added, “We especially urge that communities of color, who are most in need of federal resources and traditionally missed during the census count, ensure they complete and return their census forms.”
The group highlighted the participation rates in New York City’s minorities, otherwise known in the study as “Hard-to-Count”, which is now less than 50 percent. Minority participation is typically below national average.
There are about 81 percent of the “Hard-to-Count” tracts in Bronx County; 87 percent in Queens County; and a whopping 95 percent in Kings County or Brooklyn. The percentages reflect the concentration of minorities in those counties.
“It is critical that people who have yet to return their census forms do so,” said Jenigh Garrett, Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “The depressed participation rate in Hard-to-Count areas harms all New Yorkers but the impact in communities of color, and Black communities particularly, is concentrated and compounded by other economic problems.”
There’s a history to this undercounting of minorities. In the 2000 Census count, 1 million people of color were missed, the group said. In the Bronx alone, the cost of the 2000 undercount was over $300 million in lost federal funding.
In fact, the federal funding loss to the largest 58 counties affected by the 2000 undercounted is estimated at $2,913 per person in those jurisdictions, money that could be used to fund schools and hospitals, the group said.
“For Black people, Central Brooklyn and elsewhere, the importance of participating in the census can’t be underestimated,” said Joan Gibbs, general counsel for the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College.