2020 Census in Virginia

census tracts with a response rate less than 73 percent to 2010 questionaires may be the hard-to-count census tracts in 2020
census tracts with a response rate less than 73 percent to 2010 questionaires may be the hard-to-count census tracts in 2020
Source: Census Bureau, Mapping Hard to Count (HTC) Communities for a Fair and Accurate 2020 Census

The Census Bureau has created 1,906 "census tracts" in Virginia within the 38 cities and 95 counties. Census tracts are designed to include about 4,000 people, with boundaries based primarily on permanent visible features so changes can be tracked over time. Census tracts do not cross county and state boundaries in order to count people within individual jurisdictions, so the edges of a tract are not always obvious.

Within a census tract are smaller units called "blocks," which may be assigned to an enumerator. A collection of blocks forms a "block group," a collection of block groups forms a census tract, and each of the 133 political jurisdictions in Virginia may include one or more census tracts.1

To prepare for the 2020 Census, the Center for Urban Research in New York identified the census tracts with a low (less than 74%) response rate to the first questionnaire mailed to each house in 2010. Additional outreach efforts can be targeted to those tracts, to enhance getting a complete count in 2020. The Secretary of the Commonwealth estimated in 2019 that 45,000 people, roughly 0.5% of the Virginia residents on April 1, 2010, were not counted in the 2010 Census. The undercounts, which varied by state, affected the distribution of Federal grants between the states for the last decade.2

The total of those grants reached $675 billion dollars by 2018, so state officials sought to increase response rates for the 2020 Census. Governor Northan created a 40-member Virginia Complete Count Commission, in hopes that the "local knowledge, expertise, and influence" of its members would improve outreach and ultimately lead to a higher response rate.3

all residents on April 1 are supposed to be counted, independent of their citizenship or ability to speak English
all residents on April 1 are supposed to be counted, independent of their citizenship or ability to speak English
Source: Census Bureau, 2020 Census: Tagline Available in Multiple Languages

In the 2010 Census, only 81% of Virginia residents mailed back the forms to the Census Bureau. Enumerators had to contact the rest, and Virginia ended up #8 on the list of states which missed resident children. In 2019, Governor Northam requested $1.5 million in order to:4

to support education and outreach efforts by the Virginia Complete Count Commission to improve the participation and representation of all communities in the 2020 Census.

Virginia was not expected to gain or lose any seats in the US House of Representatives after the 2020 Census. A complete count was desired because each resident missed in the count could result in an annual loss of $2,000 in Federal funding which is allocated based on population. Of the 132 Federal programs using population as a criterion, some of the most significant were Medicaid, Federal Direct Student Loans, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ("food stamps"), Highway Planning and Construction, Head Start, Title I grants to school districts, Rural Electrification Loans and Loan Guarantees, and the Community Housing Impact and Preservation (CHIP) affordable housing program. In 2016, Virginia received over $17 billion allocated based on Census data for 55 large Federal programs.

The General Assembly had blocked Gov. Northam's request for extra funding to enhance the accuracy of the 2020 Census, so he drew instead upon the Economic Contingency Fund where the governor had full discretion for allocations. At the time, plans for the census were highly partisan.

The Trump Administration was trying to add a question that required responders to identify if they were citizens. That question was expected to reduce the response rate from the 11-12 million undocumented residents in the United States, lowering the count of Hispanics from Mexico and Central America by 12% and keeping six million from responding. The question could have led to a later effort to draw election districts after the 2020 Census based on citizen population only, rather than total population. That approach would reduce the voting influence of Democrats, with their higher support from racial minorities.

Based on the American Community Survey, Arizona, California, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado would be most effected by the reduced response rate. If the US Supreme Court had not blocked the addition of the citizenship question, Montana was projected to gain a second seat in the reapportionment of the 435 seats in the US House of Representatives. Alabama, Minnesota and Ohio would avoid losing a seat. California would lose two seats, while Teaxas would gain only one instead of two.5

Links

References

1. "United States Census Information @ Pitt: Understanding Census Geography," University of Pittsburgh, https://pitt.libguides.com/uscensus/understandinggeography (last checked May 24, 2019)
2. "Internet access and hard-to-find addresses could affect Virginia census count, analysis says," Virginia Mercury, May 23, 2019, https://www.virginiamercury.com/blog-va/internet-access-and-hard-to-find-addresses-could-affect-virginia-census-count-analysis-says/; (last checked May 24, 2019)
3. "Establishing the Virginia Complete Count Commission," Executive Order 27, Governor of Virginia, December 18, 2018, https://www.governor.virginia.gov/media/governorvirginiagov/executive-actions/EO-27-Establishing-The-Virginia-Complete-Count-Commission.pdf; "Without outreach funding, it will be harder to count Virginia’s children, immigrants and senior citizens in 2020," Virginia Mercury, April 11, 2019, https://www.virginiamercury.com/2019/04/11/without-outreach-funding-it-will-be-harder-to-count-virginias-children-immigrants-and-senior-citizens-in-2020/ (last checked May 24, 2019)
4. "Governor Northam Announces Virginia to Dedicate Additional Funding for 2020 Census," news release, Governor Ralph S. Northam, July 23, 2019, https://www.governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/all-releases/2019/july/headline-841770-en.html (last checked July 24, 2019)
5. "Governor Northam Announces Virginia to Dedicate Additional Funding for 2020 Census," news release, Governor Ralph S. Northam, July 23, 2019, https://www.governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/all-releases/2019/july/headline-841770-en.html; "Northam pledges up to $1.5M to ensure an accurate census - Inaccurate count could mean less federal funding," Daily Press, July 24, 2019, https://www.dailypress.com/news/virginia/dp-nws-census-2020-announcement-governor-20190722-story.html; "Where a citizenship question could cause the census to miss millions of Hispanics," Washington Post, July 4, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/06/06/where-citizenship-question-could-cause-census-miss-millions-hispanics-why-thats-big-deal/; "Counting for Dollars 2020: The Role of the Decennial Census in the Geographic Distribution of Federal Funds," George Washington University Institute of Public Policy, https://gwipp.gwu.edu/counting-dollars-2020-role-decennial-census-geographic-distribution-federal-funds (last checked July 24, 2019)


Population in Virginia
Virginia Places