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Accurate Census Count Can Boost NM Children's Success in Life

Children under age five are by far the largest of any age group consistently missed in the decennial census count. (shawn1/Pixabay)
Children under age five are by far the largest of any age group consistently missed in the decennial census count. (shawn1/Pixabay)
June 26, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The number of young children missed in the census count has grown steadily in the past 40 years, and advocates for New Mexico children remind those who haven't completed the census form that millions in federal dollars are at stake.

A recent survey found that 10% of 800 families making less than $50,000 per year said they would not include their babies, toddlers or preschoolers in the census count, with another 8% uncertain whether to count them.

Lonna Atkeson is a political science professor and the director of the Center for the Study of Voting, Elections and Democracy at the University of New Mexico. Atkeson says the state has unique challenges in getting everyone counted.

"We're one of the states that is expected to have the highest non-response rate, because we have such connectivity issues and then, because of the demographic profile of our state." says Atkeson. "We're a very poor state."

Funding based on census numbers supports a range of services, from education to the National School Lunch Program. It also informs how money for services - from hospitals and emergency response to bridges and road construction - is allocated across the country.

In New Mexico, the 2010 Census dramatically undercounted the indigenous population. Deborah Stein, network director with the Partnership for America's Children, says the census consistently misses Black and Hispanic children.

She worries rates of the missing could climb higher.

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

Sarah Brannon, managing attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project, says many people have had security concerns in terms of providing information to the federal government, complicated by mistrust of the current administration.

"And the fact that the current administration has not followed all of the norms in lots of different circumstances," says Brannon. "And so, that leads some populations to be particularly distrustful of the process."

People who want to respond to the census can do so online, at '2020census.gov.'

Disclosure: Annie E Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Education, Juvenile Justice, Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM