Census 2020: How Is Philanthropy Responding to the Citizenship Question?

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The inclusion of a question about citizenship status on the next census has funders and advocates even more worried about getting a full and accurate count in 2020. The concerns add to earlier warnings about low funding, access and data security.

Back in March, the Trump Administration added a question to the census about citizenship status. Opponents worry the question will intimidate hard-to-count populations of color and discourage participation.

Those opposing the question include six former Census Bureau directors and the Census Scientific Advisory Committee, made up of prominent demographers, economists and engineers. Six lawsuits demanding the removal of the question were filed earlier this year and are making their way through the courts. The question also faces growing opposition among many nonprofits and foundations, which rely on accurate census data for their work. Data collected from the census determines more than representation in Congress. It's also used to decide how billions of dollars in federal funding is allocated. 

“If you look at the work that philanthropy does, virtually any field that any of our foundations is engaged in is touched by the census because many of the organizations that we work with receive federal support,” said Jim Canales, president of the Barr Foundation. He said about the citizenship question: “Those of us who care about a full and fair count are worried that it might suppress the count.”

The foundation committed...