Will You Count? Households With Low Incomes In The 2020 Census

Households with low incomes are at risk of being undercounted.

People with low incomes have been undercounted in past censuses, disadvantaging their families, communities, and neighborhoods. More than 29 million people in or near poverty (below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level) live in hard-to-count census tracts, making up almost 50 percent of the U.S. population that lives in hard-to-count communities.

What are the hard-to-count characteristics of households with low incomes?

Households with low incomes typically share certain characteristics that compound their risk of being undercounted, including:

  • Housing: Households with low incomes tend to be renters, and are more likely to be missed in the census because they are more likely to be moving during the census-taking process.
  • Race and Ethnicity: Households with low incomes are more likely to include people of color, who are also historically hard-to-count. In fact, the 2010 Census undercounted African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians and Alaska Natives living on reservations.
  • Internet Access: The 2020 Census plans to use the internet as the primary mode of data collection from U.S. households. However, only 78 percent of households with incomes below $30,000 use the internet, 10 percent less than the next income group ($30,000-$50,000) and almost 20 percent lower than households with incomes of $50,000-70,000.
  • Administrative Data: The 2020 Census likely will use administrative data, such as information mined from IRS tax returns. This method may create a relative disadvantage for individuals and households with low incomes who do not file taxes or have W-2s.