Column: Michigan must count all kids in 2020 census 

August 3, 2019 6:08 am

Image by Foto2727 from Pixabay

It might be hard to believe, but young people will be trickling into school over the coming weeks for a new year with friends. Teachers will once again have their classrooms filled with bright faces, and the challenge to get to know their students starts anew. 

For most, that process begins with a simple but important first step: taking attendance.

Taking attendance is so important that our country has its own version of this tradition — the census. Every 10 years, everyone in the United States is counted, or at least they’re supposed to be. This includes our kids, from newborns to teenagers. 

The truth is many kids end up getting missedespecially young kids, kids of color and kids living in families with low incomes. Kids in immigrant families are also at risk of being undercounted in the census, and this upcoming count is no exception. Despite the President Trump administration folding on the inclusion of a citizenship question, it’s likely that many immigrant families will be fearful of being counted, given the Trump administration targeting immigrants.

It’s critical that all of us are counted — including our kids.

Why? census numbers will determine funding for many programs over the next decade, like the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), special education funding and foster care programs just to name a few. 

Political districts will also be drawn based on census counts. If kids are missed, the communities they live in will miss out on public dollars and political representation.

In Michigan, it’s estimated that over 10,000 young children were missed in the 2010 census, leading to over $9.7 million dollars per year lost in federal funding. We cannot let this happen again.

Young children, children of color, children in immigrant families and children in low-income families are at particular risk of being undercounted in the 2020 census.

This is due to a variety of factors, including unstable and transient living situations, it being harder to count children living in communities with many multi-unit buildings, and general government distrust and fear, the latter of which was ratcheted up Trump’s initially proposed citizenship question on the 2020 census. 

Please join the Michigan League for Public Policy and others  in planning for census 2020 now. The League’s Kids Count in Michigan project has developed a new data tool to provide estimates of kids that may be at risk of being undercounted in your county. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer | Casey Hull

By showing the estimates of these particular populations in Michigan and its counties, this data tool can empower local communities, officials and advocates to understand their demographics and work to ensure all their residents and their children are counted.

The League also is proud to be a part of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s census Complete Count Committee, which is designed to assist in a complete and accurate census count in Michigan. 

As Whitmer said, “The 2020 census count will dictate how much federal funding is allotted to Michigan for our schools, infrastructure, and how many Representatives we have in the United States House of Representatives.”

Come next April, let’s make sure all of us are counted. Let’s raise our voices, like we did in school, and proudly proclaim — we are here!

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Parker James
Parker James

Parker James is the Kids Count policy analyst. Prior to joining the League, Parker worked with data in various positions to advocate for vulnerable populations, including as project coordinator of a health program in Southwest Michigan.