“Para Todos,” says Ana Muñoz. “The census is for everyone.”
Muñoz is the Census Equity Coordinator at the Latino Network, as well as their Chief Training and Engagement Officer. For Muñoz, communicating an inclusive message about the 2020 census is a challenge—and an opportunity.
Latino Network is one of 12 agencies partnering on the United Way’s #WeCountOregon campaign. United Way of the Columbia Willamette serves as the backbone and fiscal agent for this campaign, which is managed by Dancing Hearts Consulting. In a statewide effort to make the census more equitable, the field campaign is working to connect with 200,000 Oregonians at risk of being undercounted.
Good census data is important to our children’s futures and even faced with uncertainty and the coronavirus, there are many ways to get involved. Census resources are available online, by phone, and by downloading materials directly—read on to find why it matters and what you can do to help.
Who is at risk of being undercounted? Analysis of prior census data gives the campaign a strong snapshot people who have historically been undercounted. These communities include: single parents, children under five, immigrants, people of color, Native Americans, and people with limited English proficiency.
The Latino Network works with Latinx children and families in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties. An ELM partner organization, they serve many young children whose families fall into these hard-to-count categories.
“It just makes sense for us to be in the front lines about delivering the message,” says Muñoz. “There’s a lot of fear and uncertainty in our community about anything that’s coming from the government. We come in and people are willing to listen.”
Why are young kids hard to count? In the 2010 census, almost two million children ages 0-5 went uncounted. There are many factors that contribute to an undercount. First, census terminology can be confusing. Language like ‘household’ (rather than ‘family’) can make the census sound like tax forms for adults. Extended and intergenerational family structures, custody issues, and new babies can also create confusion around how to count children. And for many families there is love and then there is fear. “People are afraid for themselves and don’t want to expose their children to anything they’re afraid of,” says Muñoz.
A tool to increase equity and access for children. Good census data helps community programs like Latino Network access federal and state resources. Many funders allocate money based solely on census data—and low census counts can limit a community’s access to infrastructure, funds, and programming. “We use 2010 census data to advocate for our early learning programs,” Muñoz explains. “We know how many children are in our community, even though it is not reflected in the 2010 census.”
How can you help? “Let your community know that the census really does have to do with our education,” Muñoz recommends. Download this fun census coloring book to get the conversation started with children and families. Census materials in more than 10 languages are available for your community at wecountoregon.com Text 33339 to pledge support and receive updates. Visit oregon2020census.gov and learn how to complete the census online, by phone or mail. Donate to #WeCountOregon by contacting Lauren Gottfredson, Senior Manager of Community Collaborations at United Way: Email Lauren here.
“The 2020 census is a very important way to effect change in our community,” says Gottfredson. “Its resources and representation are going to stick around for 10 years, the effects of which last even longer. It is critical to addressing equity and opportunity in our communities. It is a chance to stand up, get counted, and have our voices heard.”