10 Michigan counties are at risk to be undercounted in census

Leaders make case for participation to boost federal funding, representation

By: - February 26, 2020 3:48 pm

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A coalition of state leaders are pushing for 82% of Michiganders to participate in the 2020 census to ensure Michigan doesn’t see a cut in federal dollars or lose representation in Congress.

“The census is an opportunity to demonstrate our pride, to say that ‘I am so proud that I’m going to step up and be counted so that the federal government understands that I am here, that our community matters, and that we are going to claim the things that are ours,’” Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said at a press conference Wednesday at the Capitol. “We have strength in numbers here in the state of Michigan, and we declare that by our participation in the census in a way that our state has never participated before.” 

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist talks about the importance of the census, Feb. 26, 2020 | Allison Donahue

The state has launched a website to provide information and resources about the census.

The Legislature allocated $16 million for outreach and preparation for participation in the 2020 census, which is the largest census campaign in state history. 

In 2010, 78% of the state’s population completed the census. The census determines how much federal funding Michigan receives for public safety, health care, education, roads and infrastructure through 2030. 

The campaign, which is a collaboration between the state of Michigan, U.S. Census Bureau and the Michigan Nonprofit Association, are particularly working to target “hard to count” communities in Michigan. As defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, those are hard to locate, hard to interview, hard to contact and hard to persuade. 

In both rural and urban areas, hard to count populations are usually comprised of young people, racial minorities, people with low incomes, people experiencing homelessness and undocumented immigrants. 

Rep. Julie Calley talks about the census, Feb. 26, 2020 | Allison Donahue

Statewide, more than 4.3 million Michigan residents are estimated to be hard to count in 2020 or less likely to complete the census, according to preliminary federal data on expected response rates. 

The top 10 counties in Michigan most at risk of being undercounted are Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Kent, Genesee, Washtenaw, Ingham, Kalamazoo, Ottawa and Saginaw. These counties are at risk of undercounting an estimated 1.2 million people. 

State Rep. Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit) says Detroit is considered to be one of the hardest to count cities in the country. In 2010, only 64% of the city’s population participated in the census.

“We can and we must do better for Detroit,” Carter said. “Every person not counted will negatively impact our city for the next 10 years. For example, if just 3% of Detroiters don’t get counted, that’s approximately 20,000 people. Detroit could lose nearly $1 billion over the next 10 years.”


The census also affects the number of congressional seats that each state receives. 

State Rep. Julie Calley (R-Portland) noted Michigan is considered likely to lose one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives due to slow population growth. 

“We need to do everything we can to make sure our voices are heard in Washington, D.C.,” Calley said. 

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.