Ex-census overseer: Skewed 2020 count meant 6 rural states gained a US House seat

The census was not overtly manipulated, but the results were skewed because of underfunding and understaffing, says a former Department of Commerce official.

The 2020 Census was underfunded, understaffed and cut short. This apparently affected some rural areas, but widespread undercounts of Blacks and Hispanics and overcounts of whites and Asians caused a malapportionment of U.S. House seats that benefited more rural states, Robert Shapiro writes for The Washington Monthly. Shapiro oversaw the 2000 Census as President Clinton’s commerce undersecretary for economic affairs, and chairs the economic policy think tank Sonecon.

“The large-scale errors in the census cost New York, Texas, Florida, Arizona, California, and New Jersey one seat each, and resulted in an extra representative for Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Montana, Wisconsin, and Indiana,” Shapiro writes. “Those wide-ranging errors are matters of public record, because the professionals at the Census Bureau obligingly report the decennial census undercount and overcount rates by race and ethnicity. Compared to 2010, undercounts in 2020 jumped from 2.06 to 3.3 percent for Blacks, from 1.54% to 4.99% for Hispanics, and from 0.15% to 0.91% for Native Americans on reservations and Alaskan Natives. Overcounts also shot up, increasing from 0.83% to 1.64% for whites and from virtually zero to 2.62% for Asians.” Shapiro’s crew calculated the effect on apportionment by applying the error rates to each state’s racial and ethnic makeup.

“The debasement of the 2020 Census did not have clear partisan effects. The more diverse states that lost out — states in which Black and Hispanic people account for between 33 percent and 52 percent of the population — include not only blue New York, California and New Jersey but also red Texas and Florida and purple Arizona,” Shapiro writes. “Similarly, the unwitting winners include not only red Montana and Indiana but also blue Minnesota and Oregon and purple Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — all states with populations that are 80 to 87 percent white and Asian.”

Shapiro says the Trump administration didn’t skew the census by overtly manipulating the results but by simply making it easier for serious errors to occur.

Ex-census overseer: Skewed 2020 count meant 6 rural states gained a US House seat

The Rural Blog

The Rural Blog is a publication of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues based at the University of Kentucky.