Census Says Millions of Americans Refusing 2020 Surveys, Not Being Counted

Millions of Americans have still not filled out 2020 Census surveys, with many expressing concerns over privacy, limited time and language barriers.

Areas across the United States are seeing wide swaths of residents who are refusing or unable to fill 2020 Census questionnaires, either due to their own refusal, not enough workers or several other factors. Regions which range from California's Fresno County, where only two-thirds of residents have filled out a census form, to rural North Dakota counties, where only 30 percent of residents have submitted self-response forms, have missed large portions of the population.

The average self-response rate for the Census is about 63 percent, but census data compiled by the City University of New York shows it is mainly concentrated in cities and among non-minority Americans.

Despite federal guarantees of increased funding, laws against not completing the questionaire and the Constitution clearly stating that every U.S. resident should be counted, both Census data and activists say much of the true population is not being counted this year. The reasons for this vary from language barriers to fears of government overreach, but some Census workers say they still don't understand.

"Personally, I ponder this question a lot: Why don't people take the census?" said Kevin Iverson, North Dakota's Census Office manager, who compared ignoring the Census to walking past a $5 bill every day for a decade, in an interview published in Monday's The Dickinson Press. "The answer seems to be either 'I don't care' or 'I'm mad at the government.'"

"I really struggle to get that point across to people who just don't care," Iverson continued. "They don't care about their children? They don't care about their neighbors? They don't care about their parents? Who don't they care about?"

Despite concerns over privacy from both libertarian-learning conservatives and migrants alike, activists and Census workers stress that the surveys are safe for citizens and non-citizens. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked an effort by President Donald Trump to include a question on the 2020 Census about citizenship. The president's intention, he said last July, was "for Congress for districting" purposes.

But a survey conducted by the polling firm Latino Decisions last February found a majority of Latinos expressed concern the Trump administration might use the census data against their families. Many Texas Latino families reported that members of their households often work too much to find time to fill out the surveys or talk with Census workers at their homes.

"I tell them not to worry, their data is protected by federal law, but they still worry," said Irma Cruz, an El Paso, Texas coordinator for the Border Network for Human Rights. "It's kind of an emergency now. People need to understand how important this is."

Several top congressional lawmakers in Washington are amplifying Census efforts to get the country's respondent percentage as close to 100 percent as possible. But the numbers over the summer show such progress has slowed.

"Only 64% of Fresno County has completed the #2020Census so far. The Constitution is clear that EVERYONE living in the United States needs to be counted, so we must increase that response rate. Go to http://my2020census.gov to get started, and then tell your friends to do so also!" California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein tweeted Monday.

In June, several groups reported that nearly 60 percent of Americans had responded even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide race protests. But less than 20 percent of Puerto Ricans and far fewer Hispanics in Arizona, California, Florida, New Mexico, New York and Texas responded.

Participation in the Census is open through September 30, people can visit 2020Census.gov or call 844-330-2020 for additional information on how to complete a survey. Newsweek reached out to both the Census and two Hispanic government accountability advocacy groups for additional remarks Monday afternoon but did not receive replies before publication.

census participation rate refusing 2020
Millions of Americans have still not filled out 2020 Census surveys, with many expressing concerns over privacy, limited time and language barriers. SMITH COLLECTION / GADO/Getty Images