City Challenges: Counting the Urban American Indian Population
Around 70 percent of all American Indians and Alaska Natives live in or near cities, meaning that efforts to accurately count the Native population must have a big focus on the urban areas.
By Rio Fernandes
A decade ago, the United States government set out to accurately count every resident within its borders for the Census. This constitutionally-mandated count failed the American Indian and Alaska Native population by undercounting them at a rate of nearly five percent, which was the largest undercount of any racial group. This failure manifested itself by missing tens of thousands of American Indians and costing our communities billions of dollars. As we sit here with another Census on the horizon, organizations like the National Urban Indian Family Coalition are working tirelessly to ensure that another undercount is prevented and that the invisible are visible.
Urban Challenges and Solutions
Around 70 percent of all American Indians and Alaska Natives live in or near cities, meaning that efforts to accurately count the Native population must have a big focus on the urban areas. Still, accurately capturing this data remains difficult because American Indians disproportionally belong to certain sociodemographic groups that are defined as hard-to-count.
· Poverty — Low-income households have proven extremely difficult to count. Roughly 23 percent of the Native population faces poverty, which is ten points higher than the national average.
· Educational Attainment — Areas with lower educational attainment are also considered hard-to-count, and Natives trail the national average in attainment of high school degrees and post-secondary degrees. Only 83 percent of American Indians have high school degrees compared to the average of 88 and only 19 percent have a bachelor’s degree compared to the national average of 31.
· Housing Insecurity — Nearly half of Natives are renters, which is another group considered hard to track due to the potential of constant movement.
These are smattering of some of the hard-to-count groups that various American Indians belong to that making an accurate count a challenge. To combat these challenges, the NUIFC and like-minded organizations have worked to create potential solutions. The first step is creating funding for urban Native initiatives. The NUIFC has helped put over half a million dollars into over 35 different urban Indian community organization around the country. This funding marks the most ambitious dedicated Urban Census initiative in modern history. The NUIFC and partners are also working to help different centers around the country connect with one another and create a network that will ensure better results for the Census.
The NUIFC and our partners have been preparing for this moment to make sure we are in position to make this decade’s Census a success. To see a more comprehensive breakdown of our Census strategy, take a look at our latest issue of the NUIFC Newsletter.
Rio Fernandes is the Communications & Projects Director with the National Urban Indian Family Coalition.
This blog was written as a collaboration with Asian Americans Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC as part of a campaign for getting out the count in American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities. Go to CountUsin2020.org for AANHPI resources and IndianCountryCounts.org for AI/AN resources.