We believe every family and every voice should count in this country, and that’s why the failure to add a citizenship question to Census 2020 represents a victory for all of us and our democracy.
Over the last year, I watched the Trump administration push for a citizenship question that threatened the accuracy of the decennial census and everything that depends on its accuracy. But it posed an even greater threat. The question would have discouraged participation and could have led to undercounting the country’s most vulnerable populations, including families experiencing poverty.
If a census isn’t accurate then federal funding isn’t fair, and ultimately neither is our government. The census helps determine how hundreds of billions of federal dollars are spent every year, and it’s woven into the fabric of the nation’s public programs and policies. It’s vital, for example, to a fair enforcement of civil rights laws ranging from protecting equal housing access to education investments.
The health of our democracy is at stake. Congressional districts are drawn with the help of census data. If that data doesn’t fairly reflect a community, how can our democratic institutions represent the American people, and how can all families be heard?
Many of the Foundation’s grantees fought relentlessly to make sure Census 2020 is fair and doesn’t include a citizenship question. Thanks to their incredible and inspiring work on the ground and at the Supreme Court I am more confident that all families will be counted, and that political representation and the federal government will work for everyone.
Working with grantees, Marguerite Casey Foundation has been at the forefront of the fight for a fair census. Early in 2018, for example, the Foundation approved unrestricted grants to support an accurate census. One grant went to The Census Project, which supports a fully-funded Census 2020 that will elevate the concerns and needs of low-income families. Philanthropy Northwest received a second grant to support conversations and a gathering to highlight the need for a fair census. The Foundation has also amplified the importance of an accurate census through its Equal Voice News storytelling.
Now we must remember that even though the citizenship question has been defeated, the fight is far from over. There are already reports of attempts to gather the same information through other channels.
Let’s celebrate this important victory, and then together get back to the vital work of supporting all of our country’s families and protecting our democracy.