U.S. Census Director Robert L. Santos speaks to Houston Ethnic Media on May 24 (Photo Credit: Regal Media Group/Todd A. Smith).

On May 24, Robert L. Santos, the 26th director of the United States Census Bureau, visited Houston to participate in a roundtable discussion with the leaders of various minority-owned media outlets.

The new director, who got sworn in on Jan. 5, 2022, spoke about the adjustments made in counting U.S. citizens during the coronavirus pandemic and the need to reduce the undercount in communities of color.

Often the only Latino at the table, Santos told Houston Ethnic Media, “I came with a very unique perspective. And I realized, all of us…we have our own perspectives to offer society that are richly valuable.”

The decennial census, taken every 10 years, counts the amount of people living in America, whether they are citizens or not.

That count determines how much money different communities receive from the federal government for projects likes parks and other neighborhood improvements.

More importantly, the census tells leaders where to build everything from supermarkets to hospitals based on where the population is located.

Furthermore, the count determines how districts are drawn for the United States House of Representatives.

Therefore, the count has a profound impact on communities of color because it determines if those communities have adequate representation in Congress.

If communities of color have an undercount, it often means that those communities will be underfunded for the next decade.

Hansi Lo Wang of NPR reported, “The 2020 census continued a longstanding trend of undercounting Black people, Latinos, and Native Americans, while overcounting people who identified as White and not Latino, according to estimates from a report the U.S. Census Bureau released [in March 2022].”

While many criticized an alleged political interference in the 2020 census with a proposed citizenship question by former President Donald Trump, Santos told RegalMag.com that he did not see anything political or nefarious with the overcount of the White population and the undercount of minority communities.

Santos said that the overcount could come from innocent mistakes from people with multiple homes.

Furthermore, he told the story of taking in his grandchildren during the pandemic.

It is quite possible, according to Santos, that people in similar situations counted newcomers to their homes, assuming they would stay there permanently, while at the same time they were counted as residents of their prior households.

Politicians, of both major parties, often draw congressional lines that benefit their party and their platform after the census data gets released.

As a result, Santos has said in the past that he thought that people were trying to sabotage the 2020 census during the Trump administration to benefit Republicans.

Santos previously said, “Many of you, including myself, voiced concerns. How could anyone not be concerned? These findings will put some of those concerns to rest and leave others for further exploration.”

President Joe Biden, a Democrat, appointed Santos to the top position at the U.S. Census.

NPR’s Lo Wang continued, “Latinos with a net undercount of 4.99%–were left out of the 2020 census at more than three times the rate of a decade earlier.

“Among Native Americans living on reservations (5.64%) and Black people (3.30%), the net undercount rates were numerically higher but not statistically different from the 2010 rates.

“People who identified as White and not Latino were overcounted at a net rate of 1.64%, almost double the rate in 2020. Asian Americans were also overcounted (2.62%). The bureau said based on its estimates, it’s unclear how well the 2020 tally counted Pacific Islanders.”

The 2020 decennial census became the first census that allowed United States residents to answer census questions via the Internet.

Those who do not complete their census information ahead of time typically receive a knock on the door from census workers.

On May 25, the Census released more data obtained from the decennial census.

The new information showed that number of young children fell nine percent.

At the same time, the number of people aged 65 and older living in America rose by 38 percent.

Marc Ramirez of USA Today reported, “Experts say the decline in small children is a lingering effect of the Great Recession of 2007-2009, with many women choosing to wait until later in life to have babies. Birth rates have not recovered since…

“According to the report, there were more than 73 million children 18 years old in the U.S. in 2020, down from 74.2 million in 2010. Most of that drop was in the number of kids under 5 years old, which declined by 1.8 million, an 8.9% fall.

“Meanwhile, the number of older adults swelled as baby boomers aged, with those 65 and older rising to 55.8 million in 2020—a 38.6% increase from 40.3 million in 2010. Additionally, the number of centenarians skyrocketed by half—the fastest decadelong rise in recent years for that group.”

According to Ethnic Media Services, “(Santos’) career spans more than 40 years in survey research, statistical design and analysis and executive-level management. He previously served for 15 years as vice president and chief methodologist at the Urban Institute and directed its Statistical Methods Group. Before that, he was executive vice president and partner of NuStats, a social science research firm in Austin, Texas…

“Santos was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. He graduated from Holy Cross of San Antonio High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Trinity University in San Antonio and a master’s degree in statistics from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. In 2023, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Sciences by North Carolina State University.”

Todd A. Smith
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