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When counting people for the Census, is more simply better?

March 19, 2019

Yesterday’s Chicago Tribune had a front page story about the 2020 Census. It was headlined “Experts Worrying About ’20 Census,” with a subheadline “Illinois is said to need good count ‘more than almost any other state.’”

Federal funding for government programs is tied to population counts reflected in the once-a-decade Census counts. These population counts also matter for the number of seats in Congress, and drawing of legislative districts.

The Federal Bureau of the Census aims to begin its counting efforts in remote areas of Alaska, highlighting that some populations are harder to count than others.

In Illinois, a group called the Illinois Complete Count Commission has started a “get out the vote” campaign. The group is stressing how important it is for Illinois to have an accurate and complete count. They politely cite the fact that many people are “not motivated to respond” to the Census, and stress that the Census Bureau is guided by confidentiality guidelines when counting individuals.

Is it possible, however, that some people are especially motivated to motivate people not motivated to respond when federal dollars and political representation are involved?

Consider in turn whether Census has to manage the risk that some states might be more motivated to “get out the vote” than others.

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