On Thursday, the U.S. Census Bureau said its estimates show the number of Black, Latino and Indigenous people was disproportionately undercounted in the 2020 census, while white people and some Asian groups were overcounted.
The miscount proves that deliberate attempts to sabotage the 2020 census, along with the bureau’s historic failure to count nonwhite people, all came to a head, as experts had warned would happen. And the impact will be far-reaching for years to come.
Latinos were undercounted at a rate of roughly 5 percent, compared to 1.5 percent in 2010, according to the bureau. The bureau also said Indigenous groups identifying as Alaska Native or American Indian were undercounted by 5.6 percent, higher than 4.9 percent in 2010. And Black people were undercounted by 3.3 percent, up from 2.1 percent in 2010.
Then-President Donald Trump's administration worked hard to discourage people — particularly nonwhite people — from reporting to the census.
His then-commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, repeatedly lied about the Trump administration’s efforts to include a question about citizenship status on the census. Though the Supreme Court ultimately blocked that question from appearing on the census, civil rights activists at the time warned that the damage had already been done. Some potential census takers feared their responses would get them swept up in the administration's cruel immigration policies.
The Trump administration also sabotaged the census count in 2020 by ending it earlier than usual, a move backed by conservative justices on the Supreme Court. Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the ruling would cause “irreparable” harm for the next decade.
And she’s probably right.
White supremacy was a major factor in Trump's and his conservative allies’ attempts to sabotage the census, just like it was in their efforts to overturn the 2020 election. In both cases, they waged a war on our democratic process to entrench white rule.
Census data is used to determine how many congressional seats each state receives, to draw congressional districts and to allocate federal funds to states. The faulty data Trump helped create has already been used to give white Republicans a political advantage in states where nonwhite people drove population growth over the past decade. And if history is any indicator, the undercount of nonwhite groups will leave many of those communities without much-needed federal funding, as well.
Trump’s rhetoric leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection was one of his more obvious attempts to undermine American democracy — but it's far from the only one. His sabotage of the 2020 census could have a far greater impact in the long run.