Count All Kids
How the census impacts my community and the importance for all family members to be counted regardless of age or immigration status
By John C. Yang
This year’s decennial census is gathering imperative data giving minority groups a much-needed voice for where the $1.5 trillion of government funding will go annually. The Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities need to be counted accurately and fairly as we have historically been undercounted with one in five Asian Americans, and one in three Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders being part of hard-to-count communities. While it is crucial that all underrepresented groups fill out the census, it is just as important that all children in a household are counted. Data from the Count All Kids campaign show that around 10 percent of all children in the United States are unaccounted for and it is essential that we decrease the percentage of undercounted children in this year’s count.
Growing up, my family and I were, at one point, undocumented. In recent years, immigrants and those in mixed-status households have been villainized and portrayed as people of less worth to the United States. However, in my experience and view of this nation, we are wholeheartedly part of this country’s dynamism. America’s vitality is not inherent to her land, it is inherent in her people and the everchanging demographic of the country. Yet, too many in our communities do not know how they can do their part to ensure all of us are heard. In messaging research that we conducted in 2018, we found that 47 percent of the AANHPI population was unaware that all people should fill out the census regardless of immigration status. Therefore, it is on all of us to amplify the message that everyone counts, and everyone must be counted in the census.
We understand the confusion and even the fear attached to filling out the census, but it is important to note that the Census Bureau does not share its information with any federal law enforcement agencies, like ICE. Thus, when completing the 2020 census everyone should be able to feel comfortable in responding and know their responses are safe. The Census Bureau has removed any question about immigration status, a topic that has created fear among communities of color. It was a crucial step in everyone being counted accurately without fear of retribution.
It is equally important to note that the agency’s data dictates considerable funding for public resources affecting the future of many AANHPI families across the country. Everyone is entitled to an education, as a constitutional right, therefore making schools a top priority for funding allocation. The census data allow the government to see how many children are in each school district. There is $47 billion of educational funding that has to be divided between states and then within school districts which means having an accurate count of the number of children in a particular location is crucial data for funds to be distributed fairly.
Census responses help federal and local governments avoid overcrowding in healthcare facilities and illuminate what health services are needed in a particular community. With the pandemic, we are seeing how crucial information like this is for the deployment of resources to the right areas during a natural disaster or crisis. The data also display how many residents are using the roads and what kinds of transportation or new infrastructure might be needed. These data influence the proportion of money that will have to go toward public resources in order to avoid dilapidation and most importantly, making sure our children grow up with the necessary resources around them to thrive.
It is not only government funding that use census data. Local businesses employ them to study their demographics to determine what products need to be created or where best to sell certain products to its customers. At my local Costco, they sell kimchi because the previous census showed that my district had a larger Asian American population, including a large Korean American and Chinese American community who eat this product regularly. The census influences how businesses develop their inventory, and where to open new stores. Selling kimchi is only a small addition to Costco’s inventory but its significance is much more; my community feels recognized.
The census only comes along every ten years and therefore vital for every household to complete it while remembering to include all members within the household, no matter their age or immigration status. Without accurate participation in the census by our communities, our voice is suppressed, and the representation of this nation’s minority groups is diminished.
We should be proud of America’s diversity. I am patriotic because I believe diversity is what makes the United States stronger and more dynamic. The gives all our communities the power to be seen and to reflect the rich diversity of our nation. So, don’t wait another minute. Tell your family, friends, and neighbors to fill out the census today. When we empower everyone to fill out those ten questions, we empower our communities to receive the resources and political power they need to thrive for the next ten years.
John C. Yang is the president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. For Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander resources, go to CountUsIn2020.org. Complete the census by Sept. 30 at my2020census.gov.