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Being counted will make a big difference for Texas and Texans

Being counted will make a big difference for Texas and Texans

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The 2020 Census questionnaires will be delivered to most households in the United States between March 12 and March 20 of this year. Once we receive the questionnaires, we can respond online, or by phone or by mail.

When we respond to the census questions, our answers are completely anonymous and only will be used by the Census Bureau to produce broad tabulations. The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to protect our answers and to keep them completely and strictly confidential. Federal law ensures that our private information never is published and that our answers will never be used against us by any government agency or court.

We all need to respond to the 2020 census because it pays to be counted. The more people counted in a state, the more seats the state will receive in the U.S. House of Representatives. And the more people counted in a state, the more federal money the state will receive each year.

The Census Bureau is required to count everyone residing in every state, not just the legal residents. The number of House seats that a state receives determines the size of its delegation to the Electoral College. Also, the amount of federal dollars that a state receives is based on the total number of persons living in the state. So politically and economically, it is advantageous for states to have all their residents counted in the decennial census. It pays to be counted.

Let’s look at how the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are assigned. Each of the 50 states automatically receives one seat, irrespective of the size of its population. The District of Columbia is not included in the apportionment and thus does not receive voting representation in the House. The remaining 385 seats are then distributed on the basis of their decennial census population counts plus the number of persons from the states living overseas who are members of the military or are federal employees. The 385 seats are allocated using a statistical method known as the Method of Equal Proportions, which has been used to apportion the Congress since 1940. The more people in the population, the more seats a state will receive.

States also receive federal monies on the basis of the numbers of their residents. How much money is distributed each year to the states? According to congressional mandates, more than 300 federal spending programs use data from the decennial census to determine how much money is distributed to the states and their counties, cities and households. Every year the federal government allocates more than $1.5 trillion dollars to the states and their components based on their populations. Texas alone receives $101.6 billion every year. These are huge amounts of money. The more people counted in a state’s census enumeration, the more federal money the state receives each year.

For each of the 50 states, I have projected to 2020 their apportionment populations, i.e., their resident populations plus their overseas populations. I then used the method of equal proportions to determine how many seats each of the 50 states will receive. If my projections are correct — that is, if my projected state population counts turn out to be the same, or nearly the same, as the numbers produced by the 2020 decennial census — then seven states will gain House seats in 2020. Texas will be the big winner, gaining three new seats over the 36 it had in 2010; Florida will gain two; Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon each will gain one. And 10 states will lose House seats: Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

Texas is projected to receive its 39th and last seat almost at the end of the apportionment process. The 39th seat that I have projected to be awarded to Texas is the 433rd seat to be assigned; remember, only 435 seats are assigned. But Texas is precariously close not to receiving its 39th seat. If the size of the 2020 apportionment population of Texas is just a little less than what I have projected it to be, around 0.7% fewer, or just more than 210,000 persons fewer, then Texas will end up losing one of the three seats I project it would gain in the 2020 apportionment.

How much federal funding will Texas lose each year if its population size in 2020 is around 210,000 less than what it is projected to be? The answer: more than $711 million dollars; and the number of dollars lost will go up if the size of the 2020 population of Texas is less.

If around 210,000 or more Texans are not counted in the 2020 census, then Texas will lose its third new seat in the U.S. House, ending up in 2020 with 38 seats instead of 39. And if 210,000 or more Texans are not counted in the census, then Texas would lose at least $700 million in federal funding each year. If more than 210,000 are not counted, then Texas would lose a lot more federal money each year, perhaps more than $1 billion dollars of federal funding.

Everyone residing in Texas needs to be counted in the 2020 census. Texas will lose politically and economically if everyone is not counted. Fill out your 2020 census questionnaire.

It pays to be counted and included in the 2020 decennial census.

Dudley Poston is a retired professor of demography and sociology at Texas A&M University.

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