Working to get Michigan’s census numbers right

Michigan has taken important steps at the state level to reduce the risk of an undercount in the 2020 census, and the Michigan League for Public Policy’s Kids Count project has created a new data tool to help counties do the same. ​


Young children, children of color, children in immigrant families and children in families with low incomes are at risk of being undercounted in the 2020 Census, and the tool provides estimates of kids in those categories by county.

According to a new fact sheet from the national Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Michigan is one of only 16 states that have supplemented the federal government’s inadequate funding for the census and formed a complete count commission to improve participation and help ensure an accurate count.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer established the Complete Count Committee on June 11, 2019, and the League was one of the organizations appointed to the committee.

And the Michigan Legislature passed a bipartisan and nearly unanimous supplemental budget bill in June that included state funding for 2019 to help Michigan prepare for its census efforts and ensure an accurate count.

“While 2020 has Michigan in the national spotlight for other reasons right now, the upcoming census is just as important to our state as the presidential election, and we have to make sure all of our kids are counted,” said Karen Holcomb-Merrill, Chief Operating Officer for the Michigan League for Public Policy and a member of the governor’s Complete Count Committee. “An accurate census count is vital to promoting racial equity and informing and improving public policy, as billions of dollars in federal funding for our state hang in the balance.”

An undercount of Michigan residents could reinforce barriers to opportunity by denying communities accurate political representation; local, state and federal funds; and private-sector investments—all of which are informed by census data.

In 2016, the federal government distributed over $900 billion to states and the District of Columbia through 325 census-guided programs and projects.

“We are proud to be working with Gov. Whitmer, legislators and partners to ensure a complete count at the state level, and we are proud to unveil this new tool to help local officials and advocates better understand their risks for undercounting at the local level and adjust accordingly,” Holcomb-Merrill said.

Underfunding and funding delays over the last decade forced the Census Bureau to cancel key tests, leaving it in a struggle to catch up.

Threatening the census further, the Trump administration’s failed citizenship question—despite being rejected and kept off of the questionnaire by the U.S. Supreme Court—is expected to still intimidate and discourage many immigrants from participating in the 2020 census.

Michigan’s decision to allocate supplemental funding for census outreach and promotion activities and to establish a complete count commission will help reach hard-to-count residents, including young children, residents with low wages and immigrants.


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