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Louisville Advocates Encourage All Groups To Participate In 2020 Census

A citizenship question won't be included on 2020 census forms, but other Census Bureau surveys ask about a person's U.S. citizenship status.
NPR
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A citizenship question won't be included on 2020 census forms, but other Census Bureau surveys ask about a person's U.S. citizenship status.

How many people say they live in Louisville on the 2020 Census could have a tangible effect on life here and in Kentucky. Population statistics impact everything from federal funding to how many U.S. Representatives the state gets.

The Census will take place next spring. For the first time, residents will have the option to respond online, in addition to by mail or phone. Community leaders say it’s essential for people to participate in order for the city and state to get needed resources.

Catalina Cordova, who runs the Complete Count Committee for Louisville Metro Government, said there are a number of reasons people might be afraid to respond to the Census. Maybe there are too many people living in their apartment, or they’re undocumented. Plus, there was the citizenship question that the Supreme Court blocked from the questionnaire this year.

Experts had worried the question could suppress responses to the Census.

"Well, it actually did create a lot of panic, especially with that foreign-born population," Cordova said. "And people are afraid. I think they're still afraid.”

Cordova said people shouldn't be worried because their responses will only go to the U.S. Census Bureau, not other government agencies, including those dealing with immigration.

The Census questionnaire asks for certain details: name, sex, age, date of birth, Hispanic or Latino origin and race. While national origin is used as a part of race data, the Census will not ask whether respondents are U.S. citizens. It is intended to count the number of people living in a given place at a certain point in time.

Cordova's work for the city focuses on reaching hard-to-count populations. That includes  college kids, renters and senior citizens. But some of the toughest groups to reach are foreign-born people and African American men, she said.

"They don't trust the government," she said. "They're like, 'Oh, no, it's just for the government to know about me.'”

Cordova said the government doesn’t use the Census to spy. It uses it to find out how many people live in an area. That has a direct impact Louisville’s federal funding for things like education and roads.

Plus, the Census count determines how many representatives a state gets in the U.S. House. After the 1990 Census, Kentucky lost a Representative due to a reported drop in population.

Edgardo Mansilla is the executive director of the nonprofit Americana World Community Center. He said the Census can do good for the community, even as politics and disinformation divide people.

"I hope that the Census will be one of the tools that we get to get back together as a community, that we can connect with each other deeply and that we could keep building something great in our hometown," he said.

He said it is a privilege to participate in the Census because of how much it could impact the local community.

'“If we don't know ... how many people are living in Louisville, we can not access the tools that will be helpful for the community," he said.

Americana will provide Census help to people who may not speak English or who speak it as a second language, he said.

Households will begin receiving invitations to fill out the Census in March.

Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.