Will you pledge to make sure your community counts in the 2020 Census?
Six months from now, on April 1, 2020, the U.S. census will be in full swing. This is our opportunity of the decade to get our fair share of public resources and political representation. The census will determine our political representation from city council to Congress.
Neighborhoods in Boston, especially Roxbury, are facing rapid change, and the 2020 Census is an important chance for us to voice what our communities need for greater stability. Data from the decennial census helps secure $40 million in federal funding for Boston Public Schools and resources for nonprofits like Action for Boston Community Development to provide 7,000 households with heating during the harsh New England winter. Every commuter on public transportation or driver on congested roads knows that our infrastructure needs as much investment — federal and local — as possible.
Many of our neighborhoods are at risk of an undercount. Sixty-three percent of Boston residents live in hard-to-count census tracts, which had low response rates in the 2010 Census. Dorchester and Roxbury have the highest concentration of hard-to-count census tracts due to the high number of renters and transient nature of our community with the influx of students and new families entering the area. Another reality is the current national political climate of fear and distrust means that these response rates could be worse in 2020. An undercount in the 2020 Census will have profound negative effects on our community, including exacerbating our housing crisis if funding levels don’t match the real need. Programs like SNAP and WIC are also at risk if an undercount occurs.
In our work at Madison Park Development Corporation, we see the daily impact of underinvestment in our community. As our residents and their families experience changes in Roxbury, we see firsthand why our community needs more resources for affordable housing, quality public schools, expansion of public transportation and access to health care. Our community deserves the resources needed to thrive so that our children can lead healthy lives while having access to quality education and care. The 2010 Census undercounted 20,000 children in Massachusetts, leading to crowded classrooms and underfunded childcare systems for the past decade. We cannot allow this undercount to happen again.
We have six months to prepare to ensure that our communities have adequate resources and representation in the next decade. As a member of the grassroots coalition MassCounts and the Boston Complete Count Committee, we’re asking residents to commit to participating in the 2020 Census. We will be working with elected officials to ensure outreach is happening every step of the way and we will be hosting Census Bureau officials to recruit for quality jobs at our Dewitt community center in Roxbury every Tuesday until the end of October 2019. Our residents are the best messengers and leaders to share the importance of the Census with their friends and family, neighbors, and fellow congregants. We pledge to make sure our community counts, and we hope you too will commit to the future of our commonwealth.
Beyazmin Jimenez is a resident and civic engagement manager at Madison Park Development Corporation. Beth Huang is director of the Massachusetts Voter Table.