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ND Officials Aim to Ensure American Indian Kids Counted in Census

To avoid an undercount of young children in the 2020 Census, North Dakota created a Complete Count Task Force, formed through an executive order by Gov. Doug Burgum. The task force includes a tribal subcommittee. (Adobe Stock)
To avoid an undercount of young children in the 2020 Census, North Dakota created a Complete Count Task Force, formed through an executive order by Gov. Doug Burgum. The task force includes a tribal subcommittee. (Adobe Stock)
May 26, 2020

BISMARCK, N.D. -- Making sure all children are counted is a common theme for the 2020 Census.

The number of young children missed in previous counts has grown steadily, and North Dakota officials worry about those in Native American families.

An estimated 2 million children weren't counted in the 2010 Census, with higher rates for certain racial groups.

Deborah Stein, network director for Partnership for America's Children, says while the data is limited, it's clear that children of color are especially vulnerable to not being counted.

"We're missing all of them, but we absolutely are missing more black and Hispanic children," she states. "The bureau did not develop data on other racial and ethnic groups, but we believe they also probably got missed at higher rates."

North Dakota officials say more than 800 children across the state weren't included in the 2010 count. Nationwide, Native American families were undercounted by a rate of nearly 5%.

It's a concern on reservations, where many residents get their mail through Post Office boxes. This year, with sheltering in place during the pandemic, they may not have received the census forms that were mailed out.

To address outreach interruptions, the state is doing more advertising through social media. And last year, it set aside $1 million for census awareness efforts.

Kevin Iverson, census office manager for the North Dakota Department of Commerce, says that helped boost the number of Complete Count committees, including in tribal areas.

"We didn't have that last time around, so there is a recognition at the local area in the tribes that they're impacted, and their undercount has hurt them," he states.

The census serves as a roadmap for distributing federal funding, as well as determining the number of congressional and legislative seats for each state.

North Dakota tribes hope a more accurate count will lead to wider representation for their members.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - ND