Historically, not all groups have been counted equally by the United States Census.
The survey of everyone living in the country that occurs once every 10 years has a record of undercounting certain communities — people of color, foreign-born residents, low-income households, renters, rural residents, young children and those with limited English proficiency.
Nationwide, the 2010 census undercounted renters by 1.1 percent and children younger than 5 by 5 percent, according to estimates made later. It also over-counted the non-Hispanic white population by 0.8 percent, undercounted 2.1 percent of the black population, and undercounted American Indians and Alaska Natives living on reservations by 4.9 percent.
As local leaders look toward the 2020 census, getting accurate counts will depend on building trust within those communities.
“I think there are tribal members who don’t trust the government process or just don’t trust the government,” said Jerry Iyall, a councilman with the Cowlitz Tribe.
In Clark County, some of the neighborhoods with the lowest response rates for the 2010 census were also the most racially diverse. Leaders in a regional census group, the Clark County Complete Count Committee, are working to boost participation in some of the most at-risk areas. Nonresponse rates are expected to hit 20 percent or even 30 percent in some census tracts, with the poorest representation in Fruit Valley, along the Fourth Plain corridor and a cluster of tracts just east of Interstate 205.