The decennial census is critical to our democracy. Census data inform the allocation of federal funds, the apportionment of elected representatives, and the redistricting of state and federal election districts. When the data are inaccurate and biased in favor of certain demographics, undercounted communities lose out on crucial investments in their schools, public transit, healthcare, and much more.
Brooklyn is the hardest to count county in all of New York State, with over 80% of Brooklynites living in hard-to-count neighborhoods. Brooklyn is also home to nearly half of the 500 census tracts in New York state most at-risk of an undercount. Moreover, in the 2010 Census, 33% of Brooklyn households did not mail back their census forms—the lowest mail return rate in the country among counties that have populations greater than 500,000.
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OUR CENSUS 2020 COMMITMENT
To ensure that Brooklyn communities receive their fair share of resources—including $50 billion in federal and state grants allocated each year to New York State based on census data—Brooklyn Community Foundation is supporting local and statewide campaigns dedicated to overcoming complete count challenges.
These efforts expand upon the $100,000 we have committed to Census 2020 organizing: $40,000 to the New York Immigration Coalition in support of the New York Counts 2020 statewide coalition, $40,000 to the Center for Law and Social Justice in support of their NYC Black Leadership Action Coalition for Census 2020 (NYC BLAC), and $20,000 to the New York State Census Equity Fund to bolster statewide efforts.
COMPLETE COUNT CHALLENGES
In 2018, the Trump Administration announced its intention to include a citizenship question on the census survey. There was bipartisan criticism of this addition, with critics noting that not only did it add a financial burden to an already underfunded and ill-prepared agency, it jeopardized the accuracy of the data by discouraging non-citizens and households with non-citizens from filling out the form. An estimated 400,000 Brooklynites—15% of our borough’s total population—are not citizens. In July 2018, we sent a letter to the Department of Commerce, which oversees the Census Bureau, urging them to withdraw the citizenship question, and we will continue to support efforts to remove it. In June 2019, the Supreme Court blocked the addition of the question to the 2020 form—however, many community advocates worry that the damage done by attempts to add the question cannot be undone.
Census 2020 will also be the first time the Census Bureau captures survey responses online. More than a third of New Yorkers do not have broadband at home, so promoting internet accessibility for low-income residents, the elderly, and people with disabilities is imperative. Through partnerships with institutions such as local libraries and the YMCA, we hope to cross the digital divide by creating accessible and secure spaces for those without internet.
BROOKLYN’S UNDERCOUNTED COMMUNITIES
Two-thirds of Brooklyn residents are renters, a category that has a traditionally low response rate. Further, renters are more likely to be low-income and Black or Latinx, skewing the data in favor of higher income white residents—a demographic that has historically been over counted.
Children under 5 and seniors are also two groups that are often undercounted. Brooklyn has the largest population of children under five in New York City. Brooklyn also has the largest senior population in New York City, with over 40% of the city’s senior-headed households relying on government assistance for more than half their income.
$40 MILLION NEEDED FOR NEW YORK STATE
Every person deserves to be counted, and to accomplish this requires collaborative action. According to research conducted by the Fiscal Policy Institute, New York State needs to invest $40 million in community-based Census 2020 efforts to secure its $73 billion share of federal funding. The Fiscal Policy Institute’s proposed funding for Brooklyn is $7.2 million—the highest out of all New York counties. This amount is more than three times the amount New York State committed statewide to community-based organizing for the 2010 Census.
Further, in a January 2019 Quinnipiac poll more than 50% of Brooklynites said that hearing from a local nonprofit organization that works in their community would make a difference in whether or not they choose to participate in the Census—a higher response than newspapers, social media, or even religious leaders as drivers of Census participation. And perhaps most critically, younger residents (18-34) — a group that tends to be the least likely to complete the Census survey—indicated the greatest trust in nonprofits as Census messengers.
Our Census Leadership in the News:
We partnered with advocates from the New York Counts 2020 campaign to call on New York State’s elected officials to include a $40 million funding commitment for Census 2020 in the 2019 budget and ensure resources are directed to nonprofits on the frontlines in our communities. On March 31st, Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers reached a budget deal that included $20 million for Census outreach. Read our response here.
In April 2019, New York City Mayor de Blasio announced that his executive budget would include a $22 million investment in Census 2020 outreach and education efforts, in addition to $4 million in unspent dollars from the last fiscal year.
We remain committed to ensuring that as much funding as possible reaches frontline organizations in Brooklyn's critical hard-to-count communities.
New York State Census Equity Fund
The New York State Census Equity Fund (NYSCEF), of which we are a member and serve on the Steering Committee, awarded its first round of grants in Spring 2019 to nonprofits in New York State that have a vested interested in supporting capacity building and technical assistance for regional partners to prepare for the upcoming census count. The NYSCEF distributed a targeted RFP to established groups that demonstrated the capacity to increase their current census activities, particularly in hard to reach communities. The following are grants that have been awarded totaling ovee $500,000:
Reaching Asian New Yorkers—The Asian American Federation will receive $100,000 to coordinate census training for 75 leaders from pan-Asian American communities in New York City, Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Utica/Rome.
Mobilizing Ethnic News Organizations—$70,000 to The Center for Community and Ethnic Media at CUNY’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism will be used to identify and train local ethnic and community media outlets across the state. As part of the grant, the Center will also offer a census fellowship workshop series for reporters in the New York City metropolitan area.
Reaching Hard-to-Count Communities across Long Island—The Health and Welfare Council of Long Island will use $75,000 to develop traditional and social media campaigns, create a complete count toolkit, and provide training aimed at reaching hard-to-count populations in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Providing Internet Access—$100,000 to the Digital Equity Laboratory at The New School will help public libraries across the state with digital security training and other preparations to help people complete census forms online.
Training Organizations in Western New York—The Partnership for Public Good will use $58,000 to work with community organizations in Western New York to engage hard-to-count populations and communities in that region.
Connecting with Immigrants and Refugees in Buffalo, Syracuse, and surrounding areas—$100,000 will help the New York Immigration Coalition aid community organizations in Western and Central New York as they encourage immigrants and refugees to be counted in the 2020 Census.
About The New York State Census Equity Fund
The New York State Census Equity Fund (NYSCEF) was established in 2018 in The New York Community Trust to ensure coverage of the State’s hard-to-count communities in the 2020 Census.
The Fund makes grants to support complete census count efforts in neighborhoods, towns, rural and isolated areas across the State with large populations that are at risk of being undercounted.
The Fund is led by a steering committee comprised of ten foundations and one funder coalition from across the state, including:
- Brooklyn Community Foundation
- Central New York Community Foundation
- Charles H. Revson Foundation
- Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes
- Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo
- Dyson Foundation
- Engage New York
- Long Island Community Foundation
- The New York Community Trust
- New York Foundation