FARMINGTON – New Mexico is considered one of the hardest states to count in the 2020 U.S. Census report, according to an Associated Press analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
According to the report, roughly 41% of New Mexicans live in an area with a low census response rate.
These “hard-to-count” areas are often underrepresented because of a low-response rate. Reporting by Axios, a news website, identified factors like unauthorized immigrant population, large minority populations, non-traditional households, lots of young children, poverty and lack of internet access as factors that have historically led to undercounting.
For the 2020 census, the Census Bureau is encouraging respondents to answer questions online for the first time, leading many to worry the change could exacerbate undercounting for those communities with lack of internet access.
While the AP estimated almost half of New Mexico lived in an area with a low census response rate, San Juan County faired better than the state average. The Axios report projects 24.3% of the county is likely not to respond. Three factors in the estimated response rate were based on low access to broadband and computer devices, low rate of response from the 2010 census and a large Native American population.
The San Juan County Complete Count Committee, a joint effort of local nonprofits and the four municipalities in the county, received a grant from the state and plan a big educational push in the next few months, said Devin Neely, spokesman for the county.
Just across the state line, La Plata County faired about the same with a projected 21% of the county expected not to respond. Although Axios’ estimate for the two counties were fairly similar, the analysis identified different factors affecting La Plata County. The county’s rate would be challenged by a high proportion of people aged 18 to 24 years old, a large Native American population and a high proportion of people living in a different house than they were one year ago.
This week, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado co-sponsored a bipartisan resolution underlining the importance of a fair and accurate census report, and encouraging individuals and households to take part in it. Bennet said the 2020 census is vital to communities across Colorado because it will help determine how federal dollars are spent.
“This affects the amount of money allocated to state and county programs, such as Medicaid, nutrition assistance, housing vouchers, free or reduced school meals, grants for community-driven projects, technical support for farmers, and funding for critical transportation projects,” he said in a written statement.
Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico was also a cosponsor of the resolution.