Kids Gardening

Students at James Whitcomb Riley School 43 discovered a tower garden is an educational tool, teaching biology, food production and problem solving. (Recorder file photo)

The results from the 2020 census will do much more than let us know how many people live in the United States and where they are.

Census numbers help determine how many schools a community needs, where companies take their job opportunities, how much money certain programs should get and much more.

When the census comes back with an inaccurate count, then, there’s a real impact.

Children, especially from newborn to 5 years old, are historically undercounted in the census. This happens for a variety of reasons.

Some parents don’t know they need to count their children before they’re old enough for school. Grandparents taking care of their grandchildren may not count them because of confusion about who they should include. For children who split time between divorced parents, mom might assume dad will count the kids, and vice versa.

The census should be completed to include everyone who lives in your home as of April 1.

Denise Luster, vice president of impact research and analytics at United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI), said the impact from an undercount in the 2020 census would be especially harmful for children in more vulnerable populations.

“When kids are undercounted, particularly for children of color, then you lose support for health insurance programs, hospital extended funds, child care food assistance,” she said.

When the census isn’t a true reflection of what communities look like, it’s partly up to the nonprofit sector to step in and figure out where the gaps are and find ways to meet communities’ needs where government funding falls short.

UWCI has a data team that can help identify where the census count falls short, but that is the privilege of a larger organization.

The 2020 census has already started. Households should have received mail from the U.S. Census Bureau about how to complete the census online, by phone or by mail. April 1 is Census Day.

The Polis Center, a research unit at IUPUI, relies on data from the American Community Survey, which is conducted annually by the U.S. Census Bureau and includes estimates based off of the 10-year census.

The Polis Center uses that data to understand things such as how gentrification changes neighborhoods and what economic opportunity looks like.

“We’re only able to do that when the count we have is accurate,” said Matt Nowlin, who does data analysis for the Polis Center.

Nowlin said the organization recently made a web application for politicians and other decision makers to help determine where schools should be located.

The Marion County Commission on Youth (MCCOY) is trying to make sure children across Indiana are counted as accurately as possible.

The group will give out mini grants of $35 to 12 organizations for family night events with food and prizes as a way to educate their respective communities about the importance of the census and how to fill it out.

“If you undercount a child in the census this year, funding and representation for the child will be missed for the next 10 years,” said Sarah Williams, director of advocacy and public policy at MCCOY. “If you’re a 3-year-old now, you’re gonna be a teenager before you get another chance to be counted.”

Williams noted the COVID-19 pandemic makes that outreach more difficult for now.

As of March 22, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated 21.6% of Marion County residents had completed the census, compared to 23.4% in Indiana.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

COMPLETE THE 2020 CENSUS

Census Day is April 1. Households should fill out the census and include everyone who lives in the home as of that day.

Fill out the census online at 2020census.gov, by calling 844-330-2020 or by mailing the paper questionnaire sent to your home.

AVOID BEING SCAMMED

At this time, no census workers are in the field due to COVID-19. This is in effect until at least May 7. If someone visits your home to collect a response for the 2020 census (now or after May 7), you can do the following to verify their identity:

• Check to make sure they have a valid ID badge with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date.

• If you still have questions about their identity, you can call to speak with a U.S. Census Bureau representative using this number: 844-330-2020.

Contact the police if it is determined the person does not work for the U.S. Census Bureau.

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