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Census Accuracy vs. Costs

2020 Census Forms


For the first time, the U.S. Census Bureau will use the internet and mobile devices to collect census data. 2020 Census funding, however, is lower than it has ever been, and the lower funding could affect its accuracy, with critical consequences for democratic representation and federal funding.

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Funding vs. Inaccuracy in the 2020 Census

The U.S. Census Bureau continues to prepare to launch the 2020 Census on April 1, as mandated by the U.S. Constitution. In a recent working paper, statisticians Bruce Spencer of IPR and Zachary Seeskin of NORC (PhD 2016) weigh the importance of taking an accurate census count versus the financial expense of gathering information for the census. They find that while census accuracy is expensive, is it crucial. The census determines how many representatives each state gets and how federal dollars are distributed. Census error, exacerbated by past funding shortfalls, could easily shift seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and misallocate billions in federal funding, due to an inaccurate count.