Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Manipulating the Census

One of my fears of the Mulligan administration is coming to pass: they're going to manipulate the 2020 Census. I guess I've only mentioned this once since he took office, though I've been thinking about it from the beginning. I almost couldn't believe they'd do it. But they are.

In case you haven't heard, the Commerce Department just announced plans to add a citizenship question, which was last done in the 1950 Census. The great Ari Berman has the full story at Mother Jones.

The Census already had enough of a problem with under-counting undocumented people; this will bring the undercount to nearly 100 percent. And even if the yes/no question is prevented through legal action (which has already been initiated), publicity around this will leave the impression that the question is there even if it's not.

In some ways, all of the news of ICE rounding up law-abiding people has already damaged the level of trust needed to fill out the Census, whose questions are premised on knowing your address (of course) and include "what is your phone number?". If you were here without documentation, would you answer those questions to this government? (As Berman notes, Census information was used to round up Japanese-Americans for internment during World War II.)

Berman and others have pointed out that the Constitution requires the Census to count everyone who lives in the country. Representation is apportioned based on the total resident population, not just citizens or voting-eligible people. And many undocumented adults have citizen children, so this will cause them to be uncounted as well.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted this bit of stupidity today:

In every nation citizenship matters, so shouldn’t we know how many we have? And districts apportioned based on # of people not here legally dilutes the political representation of citizens & legal residents.
Dilution... the language of racial purity shows through in Rubio's thinking. Berman replied to Rubio's tweet:
1 in 5 Florida residents are immigrants. Your state will lose billions in funding & significant political representation if they don't respond to Census. Also districts have always been drawn based on total population not citizenship. Read the Constitution.
Under-counting and actively suppressing a full count will, of course, happen in all areas of the country, but it will affect blue and purple states the most, which is the intent. Federal funding — $675 billion a year —for everything from transportation to schools, health care, and housing will be affected, Congressional and legislative seats will be skewed, and the data used by social scientists and businesses will be screwed up for generations.

But guess who will be easily counted? Incarcerated people, who "reside" in the usually rural counties that house prisons, rather than where they're from. That bit of population inflation favors Republicans, of course, so that will go ahead as usual.

The Census, while not perfect, had become more accurate over the past several decades, under both Republican and Democratic administrations. White people were actually over-counted by about 1 percent in 2010, while 1.5 million people of color were under-counted.


Two past posts about Ari Berman's work:

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