APIs and the 2010 Census: Why It Matters

By bonnie
Published: Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Asian and Pacific Islander (API) families will feel the effects of the 2010 census for the next decade. Everyone living in the United States is required by the U.S. Constitution to be counted every 10 years, regardless of citizenship or residency status. In March 2010, every household will receive a census form in the mail that by law must be completed and mailed back by April 1, 2010.

Barriers to Counting Asian Americans

Communities of color are disproportionately under-counted in the census. API communities can be under-counted for many reasons:

  • Lower education levels or limited English proficiency affect the ability of many individuals to understand the census
  • General misunderstanding of the importance of census participation
  • Fears that the census may be used by immigration or law enforcement officials to deport an individual or family member or to disqualify someone for social welfare programs.

It’s important to acknowledge and address those fears directly. Here are some facts that respected community leaders can help deliver between now and April 1, 2010:

  • Census answers cannot be used against you in any way. Individual census responses are confidential and protected by the strongest national privacy laws on the books.
  • The census form does not ask about citizenship status.
  • No other government agency – not immigration officials, law enforcement, housing authorities, or the courts – can get any person’s individual census answers for the next 72 years.
  • Every census worker swears an oath to keep information confidential – and anyone who violates that confidentiality can be imprisoned for up to five years and fined $250,000.

A note for bi-racial households: It is not widely known that the race of the household member who fills out the census form determines the racial designation of a family in one of the census’ major statistical tables. Given that people of color are often under-counted by the census, couples or families may want to consider having a person of color identify as “household member #1″ when filling out the form for a family.

An Accurate Census Benefits APIs

Governments and private companies use census numbers in deciding where to spend money for schools, housing, health care, job training, economic development and more. Every person who goes uncounted costs their community more than $14,000 in funding for these important public services.

Census information also helps in determining political representation and enforcing civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in housing and employment. For example:

  • Political Power – The census shapes voting districts, which can determine whether or not communities are fairly represented in Congress, state legislatures and local governments.
  • Voting Rights – Census information is used to decide which communities will get voting ballots and other important government documents in Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and other languages. The census is also used to monitor whether people have access to the voting booth.
  • Education – Billions of dollars in education funding are distributed based on census information.
  • Health Care – The Public Health Service Act uses data on race and national origin to identify populations that may not have access to adequate medical care. Census data influences the distribution of funding for programs that support community health care.
  • Jobs – The census influences the distribution of community development block grants and is used by state governments and private companies to decide where to build new housing, roads, and shopping centers. Census information also helps the government monitor discrimination and enforce the Civil Rights Act of 1965, ensuring equal opportunity in the workplace.

Federal Funding

It’s all in the numbers—more than $400 billion in federal funding is distributed every year based on census information. Here are some ways the census affects API children, families, and communities:

  • Title 1: Support for schools serving low-income students – $7.7 billion
    Thirty percent of Asian and Pacific Islander students attend high-poverty schools that are targeted by Title 1, which provides financial assistance to local educational agencies and schools with high numbers of low-income children. In the 2006-07 school year, Title I served more than half a million Asian and Pacific Islander children.
  • English Language Acquisition Grants – $647 million
    Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act authorizes grants to states to serve students with limited English proficiency. Over 33 percent of the Asian and Pacific Islander community has limited English proficiency, and 63 percent are foreign-born. On average, Asian students attend schools that are 25 percent Asian and have a high concentration of English language learners.
  • Head Start – $5.7 billion
    Head Start provides grants for early childhood education and development programs for economically disadvantaged children and families, with a focus on helping pre-school children get ready for school and engaging parents in the learning process. Asian and Pacific Islanders make up about 2.5 percent of Head Start enrollment.
  • Medicaid
    In 2006, about 1.4 million Asian and Pacific Islanders were enrolled in Medicaid, which provides medical benefits to people without insurance or with inadequate insurance.
  • Community Development Block Grants – $6.3 billion
    Federal Community Development Block Grants improve the life of communities living at or below the Federal Poverty Guidelines by providing low-income housing and expansion of economic opportunities.

More information is available from the Asian and Pacific Islander 2010 Census Network (API Count) at www.apicount.com, the Asian American Justice Center at www.fillinourfuture.org and from the Leadership Conference Education Fund at www.civilrights.org/census.

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