Child Health

As Many as 73,600 Ohioans Won’t Be Counted in 2020 Census If We Don’t Act Now

June 7, 2019 | Ohio

This week, the Urban Institute released a report detailing the dire risk of an undercount each state and the nation faces in the 2020 Census. The report lays out a series of compounding factors – decade of underfunding, and under-testing of questions and administration of the survey– that could cause us to miss as many as 4.1 million people nationwide and 73,600 in Ohio, making 2020 an objectively less accurate census than 2010.

While the report walked us through some facts we already know, it also took us for a stroll through a number of new scenarios based on the data. The picture the report paints is pretty scary.

The Potential Undercount
As many as 73,600 Ohioans won’t be counted in the 2020 Census if we don’t act according to the Institute’s reportEstimates from earlier in the year suggest that missing about 70,000 people would result in Ohio losing one of its 16 congressional seats diminishing our power in congress and our voice in presidential elections. Further, the report mentions the peril our state could face in lost funding, an estimated $88.7 million per year for a full decade (over $887 million!).

The Institute built estimates for three scenarios: A.) if the 2020 count has a performance level equal to that of the 2010 Census B.) if the 2020 count meets the Census Bureau’s 2020 projections, and C.) if the 2020 count has a plausibly high undercount due to new and untested methods, new challenges in the landscape, and the potential impact of the citizenship question dialogue even if the question itself is not added to the form.

Low Risk Scenario: A 2010 Replay – The 2010 Census was lauded as an operational success with an overall low net undercount—it should be noted that the overall low undercount of 2010 masked large undercounts of young children, minority populations, and other historically undercounted groups. However because of changes in our national and state populations, even at 2010 performance rates, we would likely miss nearly 900,000 people nationwide. And not even the Census Bureau believes they’ll match 2010 performance; they already anticipate lower self-response rates.

Medium Risk Scenario: 2020 Census Plays Out as Census Bureau Planned – If the 2020 Census is executed as lain out in the Bureau’s the 2020 Census Operational Plan there will be a .84% undercount of the population where nonparticipation will partially be offset by administrative records, but overall, the count will be more inaccurate than the low-risk scenario.

High Risk Scenario: Subpar Performance + Citizenship Question – If self -response is at the lower end of the Census Bureau’s predictions and experts are correct about the impact of the citizenship question amongst immigrant populations. In this scenario, we could see up to 4.1 million people uncounted.

Who Will Show Up Missing?
Children under the age of 5, Black, and Latinos stand at greatest risk of going uncounted.

Children: Young children are at the greatest risk of going uncounted. In Ohio, more than half of those who may be missed are children under the age of 5 according to the Institute. Nationally, the Institute estimates that of the 4.1 million people who may be miss, 1.3 million are children under the age of 5. To break that down, we could potentially miss one-in-18 Ohio children under age 5 in our state, and 1-in-16 nationally.

According the Census Bureau, the children who live with grandparents or other relatives other than their parents or where a parent is not the householder are at high risk of going uncounted. This is bad news for Ohio as we are dealing with a record number of children entering kinship and foster care as a result of the opioid crisis. Black and Latino children are at high risk and were missed twice as often as White children in 2010. In addition, children living in rental housing and those born within a few months of the census are also at a high risk of being missed.

The Full Picture:
The following are the Institute’s estimated over and undercounts for the state:

  • White non-Hispanic: Over count of 7,700 (0.1%) to 70,600 (0.8%)
  • Black: Undercount of 40,500 (2.5%) to 60,700 (3.7%)
  • Asian: Undercount of 2,000 (0.6%) to 5,200 (1.5%)
  • Hispanic: Undercount of 9,700 (2%) to 17,000 (3.6%)
  • Ages 0 to 4: Undercount of 30,100 (4.2%) to 41,100 (5.7%)

How to Save the Census in Ohio
Right now, the Ohio Senate is determining whether funding for the 2020 Census will make it into the Senate version of the budget. Senator Peggy Lehner submitted an amendment requesting $1.1 million in the state budget for the 2020 Census to fund grants to local complete count committees and nonprofits for communication and outreach efforts.

This modest amount of funding would allow local communities to:

  • Launch or enhance local outreach campaigns focused on hard-to-count populations and hard-to-reach areas.
  • Expand the pool of trusted messengers who can reach hard-to-count families.
  • Make internet access available to families least likely to have it at home.
  • Address privacy and confidentially concerns.

We need strong leaders in our Statehouse to act now to an accurate 2020 Census count and ensure our state 1) receives its fair share of billions of federal dollars distributed using census data for health care, education, food, transportation, business/industry loans and a host of critical programs and services and 2) secures its voice in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Together we can save the Census.

You can make a difference today by calling your legislators. 
Ask our Senate leaders to support Senator Lehner’s amendment requesting $1.1 million in the state budget for the 2020 Census to fund grants to local complete count committees and nonprofits for communication and outreach efforts.


  • Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (614-466-7505)
  • Ohio Senate Finance Committee Chair Matt Dolan (614-466-8056)
  • Ohio Senate Finance Committee Vice Chair David Burke (614-466-8049)
  • Ohio Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Vernon Sykes (614-466-7041)