Given the recent decision of the Census Bureau to include a citizenship question in the census survey, the LUCA process becomes even more important—For addresses that do not respond, the Census Bureau estimates the number of people living at those addresses contained in the Master Address File using a process called "count imputation". Count imputation is a routine part of the Census and has been done every census going back to 1970. Over 1.1M people were counted through count imputation in the 2000 census. (Cantwell P., Hogan H. and Styles K. (2005). Imputation, Apportionment, and Statistical Methods in the U.S. Census, Research Report Series, Statistical Research Division U.S. Bureau of the Census, Statistics 2005-01, 11-14, https://www.census.gov/srd/papers/pdf/rrs2005-01.pdf)
Living in Unconventional Housing is a Major Cause of Census Undercount—Differential undercount of minorities and immigrants keeps local communities from getting their fair share of census-driven federal program funding and securing equitable political representation. Research shows that one-third of total undercount of low-income minority and immigrant families stems from the place a household lives being left out of the Census Bureau’s Master Address File and totally missed.
Community Canvassing is an Effective Way to Address the Problem—The pilot community address canvassing in Fresno successfully identified and added more than 6% to the Census Bureau address list in the targeted neighborhoods —about four times the official undercount of Hispanics. The households added are the most marginal and hardest-to-count.
Local Government Can’t Effectively Add Unconventional Housing to the Census Bureau’s Address List On Its Own—The usual approach to correcting the Census Bureau’s address list in LUCA is to rely on administrative records. But unconventional housing is typically concealed—so the databases available to local government are usually not helpful. Community address canvassing is a crucial complement to traditional address list review.
High Impact at a Low Cost—Mobilizing grassroots community groups is affordable, engages people who know the community well and are widely-trusted. They work effectively because they have first-hand knowledge of local housing conditions. Cost of in-field canvassing in the pilots was only about $40,000 for the pilots in Fresno, San Jose, and San Francisco. Overall, more than 1,500 housing households that might have been left out of Census 2020 were added and more than 5,000 low-income families now have a much better chance to be counted. Address canvassing is cost-effective because only 15% of any community needs to be canvassed (no need to go to affluent neighborhoods with single-family homes, they’re on the list).
Easy and Rapid to Implement—CommunityConnect Labs’ app runs on canvassers mobile phones so that canvassers can easily submit automatically geo-coded locations on housing units they identify in a format conforming to Census Bureau specifications. Training canvassers takes half a day or less. The Fresno team of five canvassers covered areas with 10,000 housing units over a period of 10 days.
A Very Short Window of Opportunity to Implement—This is a one-time-only opportunity. The LUCA (Local Update of Census Addresses) process runs from February through June of 2018. Local government-grassroots organization partnerships can conduct address canvassing very rapidly once there they decide to go forward and secure funding to support the modest costs of a canvassing team.
Outreach by trusted local grassroots groups doing address canvassing is a great launching point for subsequent efforts to “Get out the Count”—It is a way for local community activists to reach out right now to encourage neighborhoods which distrust the federal government to recognize that census participation is a way to assert one’s own identity and to help one’s local community. And that it’s safe!
About CommunityConnect Labs
CommunityConnect Labs enables nonprofits, governments agencies, foundations and mission-driven companies to generate fast, affordable, and reliable data from low-income communities through the innovative use of SMS technology. For more information, visit www.communityconnectlabs.com
CEO, CommunityConnect Labs