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Congressional Black Caucus Demands Accountability and Transparency from Census Director Dillingham

Ahead of the start of the Census, the CBC met with Director Dillingham to address progress and areas of concern

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Washington, February 28, 2020 | comments

Yesterday, Members of the Congressional Black Caucus met with Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham at the direction of Congressman Steven Horsford (NV-04), Chair of the CBC 2020 Census Task force. The task force was formed to hold the Trump Administration accountable for an accurate and inclusive census process for Black people in America. 

“Since 1790, our Constitution has called for the counting of every person in our country every 10 years. However, more than 200 years later, we are still fighting for a complete count in the Census, and communities of color are among those that are historically the most underrepresented. To that end, we requested this meeting with Director Dillingham to hold the Census Bureau accountable to the people that it is constitutionally mandated to count. With $800 billion allocated from Census data, there is too much on the line to leave the Census Bureau unchecked,” stated Congressman Steven Horsford.

Last year, the Caucus succeeded in securing approximately $5 billion in additional funding for the Census, bringing the total to $7.3 billion up from the initial Bipartisan Budget Act cap of $2.5 billion. One objective of the meeting with Census Director Dillingham was to ensure those funds are being properly allocated. The Bureau must be prepared for the count beginning next month and address the needs of historically under counted communities. 

“Yesterday, Members of the Congressional Black Caucus met with Census Director Steven Dillingham to discuss the progress that the agency is making to count all Americans, and to reduce the under counting of the Black population in the U.S. When our community is under counted, we lose critical federal dollars that support our businesses, roads, and healthcare, among other vital resources,” said Congresswoman Karen Bass, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. “That’s why the CBC Census 2020 task force is working to provide oversight of the Census Bureau and engage with the public and private sectors to ensure we are all counted.”

Other areas of concerns raised by Members of the Congressional Black Caucus included media spend in Black media outlets, diversity in hiring, the network of Census partners, linguistics of staff, and accessibility of the Census in low broadband areas. 

The legacy of under counting African American and other minority communities in the census dates back to the first census count in 1790. During the writing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787, delegates debated over the number of seats in the House of Representatives. In 1790, a compromise between the northern and southern states resulted in a decision for enslaved Africans to be counted as three-fifths of a person for Congressional representation and taxation. 

African Americans are still under counted in the census today. According to the Decennial Statistics Studies Division of the Department of Commerce, in 1990 the agency estimated “a net under count of about 4 percent for African Americans.”  This number was lowered to “2 percent – around 800,000 people – in the 2000 Census, but the most recent Census in 2010 showed no significant change to the Black under count.”  


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