Editorial: Accurate Census aids islanders, all
Numbers matter, and at no time more than they do in 2020, when the U.S. Census Bureau will do its decennial count.
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Numbers matter, and at no time more than they do in 2020, when the U.S. Census Bureau will do its decennial count. They may matter especially to Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, whose tally will make a big difference in funds for programs that will benefit them.
Every 10 years since the first tally in 1790, Census workers have fanned out across the nation to take stock of America’s growing population — everyone who’s here for a long-term purpose.
This includes the “foreign born,” a term covering anyone not a U.S. citizen at birth. Naturalized U.S. citizens, permanent residents who emigrated here, temporary migrants such as foreign students, humanitarian migrants such as refugees and those given asylum and unauthorized migrants are all part of the mix, regardless of legal status.
The reason: The Census Bureau collects data from all within America’s borders in order to establish how many people affect government needs and resources, in one way or another.
Legal permanent residents (green card holders) qualify for some federal public benefits. But even non-citizens who don’t qualify pay some state and local taxes, and their presence has an impact on government services.
As for the islander population in Hawaii, Census officials estimated that collectively they were undercounted in the last Census by 1.3%. That doesn’t sound significant, but in a federal government that spends $675 billion over the course of 10 years based on Census data, it translates into a consequential shortfall.
That’s why it’s so important that Census workers from this population join the fight to produce a more accurate count.
To that end, the Census Bureau has increased the amount of money being invested in outreach, said John Aeto, president of The Kalaimoku Group. Additionally, the Legislature allocated $750,000 for the campaign.
Aeto added that his marketing company is the first Native Hawaiian-owned firm hired to overcome this problem. The Census Bureau was motivated to do so because while the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population is relatively small, they are among the nation’s fastest-growing groups,
Starting today, an advertising campaign will seek to promote Census participation among the island groups with targeted messaging, he added.
But success may hinge in part on finding Census takers from within various ethnic communities, Aeto said: Because they will be residents of the area, they know where more of the households are located and will be more trusted during the door-to-door canvassing.
That trust deficit applies to non-citizen enclaves as well, because foreign-born residents can bring with them an uneasiness with government agents making inquiries in private homes. So it’s critical to a credible Census that workers represent these sub-groups as well.
The bureau has posted an application website (2020census.gov/en/jobs.html) to help find workers from each neighborhood. Some 300 door-to-door surveyers are sought, part of 3,100 workers needed here.
About 45% of the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population lives in Hawaii, Aeto said; Hawaiians are the largest single group in the category, comprising 46% of the whole.
Getting these groups in particular better represented is critical. The undercount over the past decade added up to a loss of $27,000 per individual by the end of the 2010s, Aeto said.
Given all the social needs of the island groups, that sum could make a difference in many lives and is something worth fighting for. Working as a Census taker, or at least participating in the count, is a mission that all who live in the U.S. — and in particular, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders — must embrace.