WOMEN HAVE AN OUTSIZED STAKE IN THE CENSUS -- AND THEY PLAY A KEY ROLE IN ENSURING A COMPLETE COUNT
Guest Blog: The Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network
Every ten years, the United States Census Bureau conducts a count of the entire U.S. population, known as the census. The census determines a lot of important information, including government representation and the allocation of critical federal funding for programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, and housing assistance. Getting a complete and accurate count is important, especially for women and their families who have a lot at stake in the census - and women will play a key role in ensuring this happens.
One of the most fundamental outcomes of the census is the determination it plays in the allocation of federal funding to the states. In Ohio, there are more than $33 billion dollars in funding for public programs on the line, and many of those programs provide crucial support women and their families need to live healthy and economically secure lives.
For many women, the funding that could be forfeited due to an incomplete census count would jeopardize their family’s health, safety, and financial stability: The mother who relies on federal aid to receive quality child care, allowing her to continue to work and provide for her family. The young woman who receives STI testing and prevention through access to Medicaid. The woman who has turned to Ohio’s network of domestic violence shelters for protection and the help she needs to get her family on their feet.
There is probably no greater example of the weight of the census for women than Medicaid dollars. Women comprise the majority of the adult Medicaid population – before the passage of the Affordable Care Act and today. Medicaid is a crucial resource for women to access the healthcare they need, and it impacts women’s ability to remain healthy and join or stay in the workforce. Whether it’s pregnancy care, postpartum care, Pap tests, timely blood pressure checks, or other preventative services, women have a lot on the line when it comes to Medicaid funding.
Because women often serve as family caregivers, the stakes are even higher. Two in five female-headed families with children are living in poverty – that’s nearly 90 percent higher than that of male-headed families with children. These mothers and their children rely on full funding for programs like SNAP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Head Start, and even housing vouchers.
Not only are women one of the biggest groups impacted by the census, but they play a crucial role in ensuring that an accurate count happens at all. Census research indicates that one person often takes the lead in filling out the Census for the whole family. Women, who are increasingly the main caregiver or head of household, are more likely to take the lead in their families. As the 2020 Census approaches, it's important to recognize the key role Ohio women play and the outsized impact an incomplete count will have on their livelihood and their families.
The Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network is a coalition, convened by Innovation Ohio Education Fund, of more than 30 organizations working collaboratively to advocate for public policies that build economic opportunity for women and strengthen families. We are united by a collective vision for Ohio in which all women – particularly women of color, low-income women, and women in other marginalized populations – have the resources to achieve economic self-sufficiency and the opportunity to lead safe and healthy lives.
The 2019 census design thinking facilitation workshop: a reflection from community leader, C.J. RobertsRead Now
C.J. Roberts Reflects on How the Census Presents an Opportunity for Communities to Find Strength in Numbers
Strength in numbers. That is my main takeaway from a three-day Census Design Thinking Facilitation Workshop that I was fortunate to participate in earlier this month in Columbus.
Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio sponsored the workshop that trained participants from throughout the state on how to facilitate design thinking workshops and, in turn, use the knowledge and support gained to promote participation in the 2020 census – especially among populations with traditionally low participation rates.
My work group for the workshop included two government employees—one from Cleveland and another from Dayton, and three community outreach specialists – one each from Columbus and Toledo, and me, from Lancaster. The five of us represented three traditionally hard-to-count populations: African-Americans, Latinos, and low-income households.
What makes our populations hard to count? Consensus around the table and throughout the room was that fear and apathy are among the most common reasons for avoiding the census. Fear and apathy come from the unknown and from accepting rumor-mill gossip as fact. Why does the government need my information? What are they going to do with it anyway? It doesn’t matter if they don’t count me and my family; it won’t make a difference in the census outcome. I might be separated from my loved ones if I participate in the census. We could lose our benefits. . . .
Truth is, the census is not meant to pry into residents’ private lives. In fact, collected data is confidential and can only be used for statistical purposes. Individual responses are not shared with law enforcement or immigration enforcement or utilized in determining eligibility for government assistance.
Participation – by all – does matter. There is strength in numbers. The census is more than a population count. Data from the 2020 census will determine how and where more than $675 billion dollars in federal funds are spent. Census data determines how many seats each state has in the House of Representatives. Census data is used for redistricting as states redraw congressional and state legislature boundaries to reflect population shifts. The census is a means for identifying community needs and planning responses to those needs. And, the census is an every-10-year opportunity to do our civic duty by being counted.
In his recent article, “Hitting Ohio 16 ways: How a bad census count could cost Ohioans,” Stephen Koff, Washington bureau chief of cleveland.com, shared the importance of census participation. Koff references the Counting for Dollars Project at George Washington University’s Institute of Public Policy. The Institute looked at 16 major programs that used census information in determining funding allocations in the past and how participation (or lack thereof) in the 2020 census could affect such allocations in the coming decade.
Just some of the federal programs affected by census data are the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Section 8 housing vouchers for low-income households, Head Start and Early Head Start, Medicare, federal highway funding, and free and reduced-price lunch programs. Find Koff’s article at https://www.cleveland.com/metro/2017/08/hitting_ohio_in_16_ways_how_a.html.
Strength in numbers is my main takeaway from the Census Design Thinking Facilitation Workshop because . . .
This week, the Urban Institute released a report detailing the dire risk of an undercount each state and the nation faces in the 2020 Census. The report lays out a series of compounding factors – decade of underfunding, and under-testing of questions and administration of the survey– that could cause us to miss as many as 4.1 million people nationwide and 73,600 in Ohio, making 2020 an objectively less accurate census than 2010.
While the report walked us through some facts we already know, it also took us for a stroll through a number of new scenarios based on the data. The picture the report paints is pretty scary.
The Potential Undercount
As many as 73,600 Ohioans won’t be counted in the 2020 Census if we don't act according to the Institute’s report. Estimates from earlier in the year suggest that missing about 70,000 people would result in Ohio losing one of its 16 congressional seats diminishing our power in congress and our voice in presidential elections. Further, the report mentions the peril our state could face in lost funding, an estimated $88.7 million per year for a full decade (over $887 million!).
The Institute built estimates for three scenarios: A.) if the 2020 count has a performance level equal to that of the 2010 Census B.) if the 2020 count meets the Census Bureau’s 2020 projections, and C.) if the 2020 count has a plausibly high undercount due to new and untested methods, new challenges in the landscape, and the potential impact of the citizenship question dialogue even if the question itself is not added to the form.
Low Risk Scenario: A 2010 Replay - The 2010 Census was lauded as an operational success with an overall low net undercount—it should be noted that the overall low undercount of 2010 masked large undercounts of young children, minority populations, and other historically undercounted groups. However because of changes in our national and state populations, even at 2010 performance rates, we would likely miss nearly 900,000 people nationwide. And not even the Census Bureau believes they’ll match 2010 performance; they already anticipate lower self-response rates.
Medium Risk Scenario: 2020 Census Plays Out as Census Bureau Planned – If the 2020 Census is executed as lain out in the Bureau’s the 2020 Census Operational Plan there will be a .84% undercount of the population where nonparticipation will partially be offset by administrative records, but overall, the count will be more inaccurate than the low-risk scenario.
High Risk Scenario: Subpar Performance + Citizenship Question – If self -response is at the lower end of the Census Bureau’s predictions and experts are correct about the impact of the citizenship question amongst immigrant populations. In this scenario, we could see up to 4.1 million people uncounted.
Who Will Show Up Missing?
Children under the age of 5, Black, and Latinos stand at greatest risk of going uncounted.
Children: Young children are at the greatest risk of going uncounted. In Ohio, more than half of those who may be missed are children under the age of 5 according to the Institute. Nationally, the Institute estimates that of the 4.1 million people who may be miss, 1.3 million are children under the age of 5. To break that down, we could potentially miss one-in-18 Ohio children under age 5 in our state, and 1-in-16 nationally.
According the Census Bureau, the children who live with grandparents or other relatives other than their parents or where a parent is not the householder are at high risk of going uncounted. This is bad news for Ohio as we are dealing with a record number of children entering kinship and foster care as a result of the opioid crisis. Black and Latino children are at high risk and were missed twice as often as White children in 2010. In addition, children living in rental housing and those born within a few months of the census are also at a high risk of being missed.
The Full Picture:
The following are the Institute’s estimated over and undercounts for the state:
How to Save the Census in Ohio
Right now, the Ohio Senate is determining whether funding for the 2020 Census will make it into the Senate version of the budget. Senator Peggy Lehner submitted an amendment requesting $1.1 million in the state budget for the 2020 Census to fund grants to local complete count committees and nonprofits for communication and outreach efforts.
This modest amount of funding would allow local communities to:
We need strong leaders in our Statehouse to act now to an accurate 2020 Census count and ensure our state 1) receives its fair share of billions of federal dollars distributed using census data for health care, education, food, transportation, business/industry loans and a host of critical programs and services and 2) secures its voice in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Together we can save the Census.
You can make a difference today by calling your legislators.
Ask our Senate leaders to support Senator Lehner's amendment requesting $1.1 million in the state budget for the 2020 Census to fund grants to local complete count committees and nonprofits for communication and outreach efforts.
THE 2019 CENSUS DESIGN THINKING FACILITATION WORKSHOP: A reflection from community leader, elizabeth hibbsRead Now
Elizabeth Hibbs Reflects on What a Complete Count Means for Her Community
As the Director of a nonprofit organization entitled (ECEA) Early Childhood Education Alliance, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I arrived at the Children’s Defense Fund’s Census Design Thinking Workshop. I knew that I would be collaborating with leaders from across the state of Ohio to learn about the 2020 census. This would allow us to bring information and resources back to our communities. However, I wasn’t aware of how powerful one little survey could be.
Prior to attending the workshop, I knew that the census took place every ten years and that it was a collection of community based data. What I didn’t realize is that for every person who participates in the census, the community receives $1,814. That means that just by participating in the census, a family of four can contribute $7,256 to their community without taking a dime from their own pocket!
The census is about so much more than data. It empowers people to access funding and resources for their communities. The state’s federal budget is created based on the number of people who participate in the census. This money goes towards community based programs and resources such as Highway and Transportation, Medicare, Medicaid, the free and reduced school lunch program, foster care, Head Start/Early Start early education programs, money for the Department of Education, Title I grants, Special Education grants, (CHIP) Children’s Health Insurance Program, Section 8 public housing and rental assistance, (SNAP) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (WIC) Women Infants and Children, (HEAP) home energy assistance program providing energy assistance for seniors and families with low income, and child care and development assistance.
Quite a few programs depend on the census for funding! This ultimately means that our communities depend on each person residing in the area to do our part and participate. This brought me to my next set of questions, “How can I participate, and what can I do to increase awareness?” Times are changing.
I’m told that census takers used to walk from door to door to assist with the census. As needed, paper copies can be requested and assistance is provided in some areas. However, the 2020 census will be mainly done electronically. The goal is to create ease of access and to increase accessibility. Ideally, it will only take a few minutes to electronically complete the census. Those few minutes are critical to community budgets and resources. They are also critical to congressional representation.
The number of people who participate in the census directly correlates to congressional representation. The more Ohioans who complete the census, the better our state is represented. In 2010, Ohio lost two congressional seats due to a decrease in census participation. After attending this workshop, I aim to do my part in remedying this situation by increasing awareness and participation across the state.
Knowledge is power. The more informed we become as a community, the more proactive we’re able to become. Due to a lack of complete understanding and knowledge about the census and its processes, people aren’t aware of their ability to make a positive impact upon the communities in which they live. Participating in the census can give me a voice, and provide a better quality of life for my community. Being counted tells my community that I am here and wanting to benefit from the improved services and infrastructure that a complete census count could provide—even if it just means I’m helping to improve our roads.
The 2020 census is a commitment to the investment of our communities. It allows us to secure the proper resources and political representation entitled to us. Our participation in the census process is a pathway to an investment in our community and ourselves. We must change the public’s perception of the census and provide proper support, while ensuring technological access and assistance to those who need it.
Now that we have this information, the real power is in what we do with it. EVERY person can make a difference in his or her community—just by participating in the census. The first step is awareness. Once we’re aware, we must share the information with others. Finally, we must all participate in the census. Our communities depend on us.
The census design thinking FACILITATION workshop
The Census Design Thinking Faciliation Workshop took place in Columbus, Ohio on March 12-14th, 2019. The following three-part series of blog posts will highlight how the OCAC is building leadership and elevating community voices to tackle issues in underrepresented neighborhoods, featuring later posts from a couple community leaders who participated.
“Oftentimes, those closest to the problem are also those closest to the solution.”
Bringing together community leaders to piece through community issues and brainstorm ways they can be addressed locally and collectively is at the heart of the grassroots organizing methods designed by the social innovation firm from Cincinnati, Ohio, Design Impact.
In March, collaboration between Design Impact and the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio culminated in a three day training in Columbus, Ohio called the 2019 Census Design Thinking Facilitation Workshop.
“Knowledge is power,” reflects Elizabeth Hibbs, director of the Early Childhood Education Alliance (ECEA) in Stark County, following her participation in the workshop. “The more informed we become as a community, the more proactive we’re able to become.”
As the 2020 Census approaches, the proactive organization of trusted community ambassadors like Elizabeth will be critical to ensuring a complete count of Ohio’s communities, particularly those with the lowest response rates from censuses past, also known as “hard-to-count” communities.
Reaching “hard-to-count” communities will be a challenge in Ohio in 2020, especially in light of the potential for technical issues, legal challenges, and inadequate funding alongside feeble efforts that could hamstring our state in federal funding and political representation for the next decade.
But there is one thing that is clear to anyone involved in March’s Census Design Thinking Facilitation Workshop: a complete count in Ohio is possible and there are many local leaders passionately driven to produce that outcome.
In all, 23 individuals from “hard-to-count” communities across Ohio participated in the workshop. The Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio sought out individuals located in “hard-to-count” communities – ranging from densely populated metropolitan areas like Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus to Ohio’s far-reaching rural and Appalachian counties. These individuals come from a wide variety of backgrounds but they all share a clear sense of their communities’ needs and their role as a neighborhood leader.
These individuals also reflected the diversity of the many populations that the Census Bureau often struggles to count. New Americans, people of color, those who speak English as a second language, rural Ohioans lacking broadband accessibility, and other demographics were all represented, leading to a well-rounded understanding of the commonalities and differences in the challenges facing Ohio’s “hard-to-count” communities.
By the end of the three day workshop, the walls were lined with flip charts and colorful sticky notes. The tables were littered with pens, markers, and notecards with hastily scrawled questions, some asking how cyber security would be addressed, others about the impact of a citizenship question on Latinx participation. Over the three days, all participants had done deep dives into understanding all aspects of the challenges in their communities, made sense of what they had learned from others, came up with new, creative ideas, and were ready to get
back into their communities for feedback and test them out for the first time.
“When you have a problem well-framed, you have a problem well-solved.”
Training grassroots community leaders to use Design Thinking to dig into local issues helps us to accomplish two critical goals: 1) It provides a framework for community leaders and their neighbors to unpack local “hard to count” issues and work together to define local solutions and 2) It provides an opportunity practice authentic engagement and inclusion of local voices on issues important to under-represented neighborhoods.
Each of the workshop participants will be hosting at least one or multiple workshops in their own communities to record insights of the barriers and opportunities to census participation in their unique localities and generate awareness and community-based solutions to address the potential for undercounts in 2020.
What we learn throughout this process will extend far beyond Census Day 2020. Each of the workshop participants can use the new insights and skills they’ve gained to tackle other community problems well into the future.
As Design Thinking Facilitation Workshop participant C.J. Roberts eloquently wrote, “The more that participants within hard-to-count communities are aware of the power they hold in affecting the future of their communities, the stronger their communities can be. And, when our communities are stronger, we all are stronger.”
Strong communities require strong community leadership from within. Those closest to the problem are those closest to the solutions that will empower their communities to be as strong as they can be. For these distinguished community ambassadors, that starts with a complete count in 2020.