The next U.S. Census begins early next year, and nonprofit leaders say an inaccurate count could cost Oklahoma millions of dollars. Journal Record editor Russell Ray discusses how nonprofit and public entities plan to ensure participation and why certain groups remain underrepresented in the census.
Drew Hutchinson: You’re listening to the Business Intelligence Report, a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I’m Drew Hutchinson, and as always, joining me is Russell Ray, editor of The Journal Record. Thanks for joining me today, Russell, how are you?
Russell Ray: Doing good, Drew. Thanks for having me.
Hutchinson: So tday, I’d like to discuss a story by Journal Record reporter Janis Francis-Smith. With the 2020 Census coming up here in about six months, Oklahoma nonprofits are trying to lead the way to get people to participate and get an accurate count for the state.
Ray: Well that’s right. The stakes are high because nonprofits could lose a lot of funding if people are not counted in the next census. For each person that's not counted, Oklahoma loses $1,800 in federal funding. That translates to a loss of $180 million if just 2 percent of Oklahomans don’t participate in the census. And a loss like that can have a big impact on the repair and upkeep of roads and bridges and the health of Oklahoma nonprofits.
Hutchinson: And there could be even more at stake. Donna Murray-Brown is CEO of the MIchigan Nonprofit Association, and she shared some lessons that Michigan learned after the 2010 Census. She said Oklahoma could gain a congressional seat based on how many people participate. The problem with getting accurate responses is that some people like to fly under the radar. But it’s also a representation issue that affects many communities that nonprofit organizations provide services to.
Ray: Yes. The census can show us areas of underrepresented populations that nonprofits serve. And more often than not, these are low-income areas that need the most help. One issue is that many households simply don’t list children younger than five years of age when filling out the census form.
Hutchinson: And Murray-Brown said that for her home state of Michigan, forming Complete Count Committees was really important. For those who don’t know, a Complete Count Committee is composed of government and community leaders. It’s a group that reaches out to parts of the population that might be afraid of participating in the census. This is especially relevant because for a time, the possibility of a citizenship question was on the table. And this made certain populations hesitant.
Ray: That’s right. What Michigan showed us was that it’s very important to reach out to the wives and mothers in Middle Eastern families. The research indicates Middle Eastern fathers understand the economic benefits of participating in the census, while Middle Eastern mothers feared for the safety and well being of their children.
Hutchinson: Daniel Billingsley is vice president for external affairs for the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits. And he encouraged Oklahoma’s nonprofit leaders to focus on changing the local culture. That means encouraging family, friends and co-workers to participate in the census.
Ray: Yes. City officials are actually partnering with a PR firm to recruit trusted and well known citizens to play a key role in the city’s census campaign. The campaign is also going to focus on those areas in the city that were the most underrepresented in 2010. And without an accurate count, one city official told us, Oklahoma City schools could lose a lot of funding.
Hutchinson: Russell Ray is editor of The Journal Record. Thank you so much for joining me today, Russell.
Ray: My pleasure, Drew. Thank you.
Hutchinson: KGOU and The Journal Record collaborate each week on the Business Intelligence Report. You can follow us both on social media. We're on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @journalrecord and @KGOUnews. You'll find links to the stories we discussed during this episode at JournalRecord.com. And this conversation, along with previous episodes of the Business Intelligence Report, are available on our website, KGOU.org. While you're there, you can check out other features and podcasts produced by KGOU and our StateImpact reporting team. For KGOU and the Business Intelligence Report, I'm Drew Hutchinson.
The Business Intelligence Report is a collaborative news project between KGOU and The Journal Record.
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