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2020 Census: A Crucial Opportunity to Rebuild Middle Class, Boost Workforce Training

Crain’s Content Studio

The city of Detroit, like communities across the state, will approach Census 2020 like one of the greatest door-to-door field campaigns it has ever seen.

The stakes are high: More than 40% of Michigan’s budget comes from federal funds allocated by census data; for every person not counted, the state loses $1,800 a year. An accurate census is considered by many government and business leaders to be the key to rebuilding a middle class.

On Thursday, May 30, W.K. Kellogg Foundation hosted Today for Tomorrow: Michigan Opportunities with 2020 Census Partnerships at the 2019 Mackinac Policy Conference. Panelists included Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, ReadyNation’s Jeffrey Connor-Naylor, DTE Energy’s Nancy J. Moody, Michigan Nonprofit Association’s Donna Murray-Brown, NALEO Educational Fund’s Arturo Vargas. The discussion was moderated by W.K. Kellogg’s La June Montgomery Tabron.

“We get one shot every decade, and we need to get this right,” Tabron said.

Duggan, who participated in the panel, acknowledged that the city was “preoccupied” during the 2010 Census and the implications were far-reaching.

“I know firsthand that racial undercount is real; for people of color, when the government comes to ask you questions about your life, you are less likely to answer,” he said.

For the first time, the census will be conducted electronically. Across Detroit, Duggan said, computers will be available at recreation and community centers. Census workers will take iPads with them when they go door-to-door to follow up with homes that have not filled out the census.

Panelists urged business leaders to start thinking about how they can help with census efforts. For starters, companies can encourage employees to fill out the survey as soon as it is distributed on March 15, which will soften the need for a follow-up door-to-door campaign. They can offer incentives to customers who fill out the census; they can also help by getting the word out to their clients about the importance of the census.

“The census is really the foundation of the business community’s decisions about where to open a new store or factory and what products to offer on shelves. On one hand we don’t want companies to make decisions with inaccurate info – also used to distribute effectively funds that help grow economy,” said Connor-Naylor.

Key Takeaways:

  • The City of Detroit has a goal to raise $3 million by the end of the year to fund its education and door-knocking efforts in the city; it has $500,000 in hand and an additional $1 million committed toward the cause.
  • Children have historically been under-counted in the census; often they are left off forms intentionally.
  • It’s against federal law for the U.S. Census Bureau to share individual census information with state, local or other federal institutions. There are many Detroiters who falsify their residency for automotive insurance reasons; they should not do so for the census, Duggan said.

This article was written by Crain’s Content Studio for the 2019 Mackinac Policy Conference.