Political, operational and funding uncertainties surrounding the 2020 Census have put rural residents in the Deep South at heightened risk of being overlooked in the decennial headcount. Another possible hurdle to a comprehensive census count: demands for a question about citizenship that researchers say could lay the groundwork for a loss of seven congressional seats from the nation’s three most populous states, California, Texas and Florida.
Home to large numbers of traditionally hard-to-count groups like the poor, minorities, immigrants and children, the South had the highest regional undercount rate in the 2010 Census, according to federal data. And with a larger percentage of Southerners living in rural areas than the nation as a whole, the region will again prove challenging for headcounters in 2020.
Rural counties make up nearly 80 percent of the nation’s 316 “hard-to-count” counties with low Census mail return rates, said William O’Hare, a Virginia demographer and Census consultant who studies rural populations. Of the 93 hard-to-count counties with majority-minority populations, 75 are in rural areas, he said.