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OR Initiative Pushes for Accurate Census Count of Young Children

Census takers starting in May will be visiting folks who haven't filled out the Census form. (JackF/Adobe Stock)
Census takers starting in May will be visiting folks who haven't filled out the Census form. (JackF/Adobe Stock)
March 16, 2020

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Oregonians have started receiving notices to fill out the 2020 Census and advocacy groups want households to keep one of the most undercounted population in mind: young children.

Nationwide, the 2010 Census missed 2 million children from birth to age five.

Mandy Yeahpau, communications director for the We Count Oregon campaign, says this especially is a big deal for people of color, who also are likely to go uncounted.

She says children stand to lose out on funding for important social and educational programs.

"When a child isn't counted, that's 10 years of funding for programs that they benefit from, such as Head Start, WIC, school lunch programs, things like that that they totally miss out on, and that's a big chunk of time for a small child," she explains.

We Count Oregon is using community partners as trusted messengers to explain to hard-to-reach folks why filling out the census is important.

Yeahpau says Oregon is poised to gain a sixth representative to the U.S. House based on the census. She notes the census only takes 10 minutes to fill out and can be done by phone or online at 2020census.gov.

Deborah Stein, network director for Partnership for America's Children, says children from immigrant families are the hardest to count, because their parents might be afraid to interact with the federal government.

"In this political environment, the likelihood that immigrant families will not count their young children is much greater," she points out. "And we're very concerned about that."

Stein notes there is no citizenship question on the census.

Sarah Brannon, managing attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project, says folks' information is secure, noting that Census Bureau employees take a pledge and face stiff penalties if they violate it.

"It is a confidentiality pledge that you have to take, that you're sworn for life to protect any information you might see during the course of your employment," she explains. "And it is punishable up to five years in prison and of a fine of $250,000 or both. So it is a very serious pledge that they take."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR