The U.S. Census Bureau extended the census response period to Oct. 31, which gives Texans, ranked 40th for responses and at risk of undercounting, extra time to consider how they could impact reapportionment and city planning.
The census response period was originally planned to end on July 31. As of July 27, the percentage of self-responses from Texans was 57.6 percent — five percentage points below the national self-response.
In-person census operations include community events to encourage census response. These were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think the census is really important because it helps decide where the money goes for schools and other resources,” Integrative studies senior Macy Caldwell said. “I’m not sure people are really thinking about the census right now. There are so many big things happening that could be more important.”
Theater junior Joey Barnett said he thinks the extension will help increase the response, though.
“I have totally forgotten about the census and have yet to answer,” Barnett said. “Since it is extended, I’m doing it as soon as I can. It also allows people to educate their friends and family on filling it out as well.”
Students who did live, or would have lived, in student housing as of April 1 will be counted as part of “group quarters,”— those who live in housing owned or managed by a third party (such as a university)— and the bureau will reach out to the group quarters’ administrators for a census response.
Business and art history freshman Aayush Triguni said he was unsure about how COVID-19’s displacement of students would impact how accurately is represents who lives where.
“A lot of the student body [chose] to stay home and a lot of kids who [dormed] might [have spent] more time at home because of online classes,” Triguni said.
According to the state comptroller, from 2010 through 2018, the number of Texans increased by 14.1 percent, which was more than double the national growth rate of 6 percent. Texas currently has 36 U.S. representatives and could pick up three or four more seats in the next round of reapportionment.
The Census Bureau also notes that college towns depend on an accurate count of students living in the area for funding for local resources like roads, public transportation and health clinics.
“[The census] not only represents our community to the government, but it shows where funding needs to go,” Barnett said. “It helps us know where new homes and businesses need to be built. It’s there to help support us.”
According to Spectrum News, due to Texas’ high numbers of children, minority groups and non-native English speakers, the state is already at high risk for undercount.
Biology junior Alexis Ojeda said he wants the census to have more options for minorities in general.
“I think the main reason we have a low response rate is due to the fact that elected officials haven’t talked much about the issue,” Ojeda said. “I wish the census added a category for Latinx under the race category. A lot of times, we’re even told to put white, which doesn’t represent most of us at all and in the end skews the numbers and makes it seem that minorities aren’t a growing population when in fact they are.”
The non-response follow-up — a process involving interviewing households that have yet to respond — was moved from May to mid-August. A study by the Pew Research Center said four in 10 who haven’t yet filled out the census wouldn’t answer the door for a census worker.
“I think people are lazy to be completely honest,” Triguni said. “People are also afraid because they don’t know what the government does with the census. People don’t know that the census helps with city planning and it’s crucial to have an approximation of the population.”
Featured Image: A reminder letter for the 2020 census lays in the middle of campus on July 28, 2020. The response period has been extended to Oct.31 due to the response rate being affected the by the COVID-19 pandemic. Image by Ricardo Vazquez Garcia