Brooklyn was undercounted in the 2010 census, and it’s in danger of being undercounted again. Brooklyn in general, and the neighborhoods hardest hit by the pandemic are already lagging behind the rest of the country in their responses.
Only 38% of people across Brooklyn have filled out the census so far. Brooklyn has the lowest response rate of all five boroughs. In some parts of neighborhoods like Flatbush, Borough Park, East New York, Brownsville and Sunset Park, less than 30% of people have filled out the census according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s website. Many of those neighborhoods have also been hard-hit by the virus so far.
Although there are still six months left to collect census data, the fact that Brooklyn and immigrant neighborhoods like Sunset Park are so far behind in their responses is a bad sign. It’s crucial that New York City, the current epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic get all the federal money it can in order to help us recover, and U.S. Census data is used to decide how federal funding gets split up and how many House seats Brooklyn will get. The fewer people who respond, the more likely our borough is to get short-changed in the future, and that our local economy will be unable to recover from the effects of the pandemic.
Census data determines federal funding for things like schools, hospitals, and roads. Businesses also use census data to decide where to invest in things like factories and new stores, which bring jobs. These things will all be key to our city recovering from a virus that has taken thousands of lives and more than a million jobs across the state.
In 2010, only two-thirds of Brooklynites mailed back their census forms. That was the lowest mail response rate for counties that have more than 500,000 people, according to the Brooklyn Community Foundation. Neighborhoods like Flatbush, Bed-Stuy and Coney Island had among the lowest response rates that year– hovering under 50% and as low as 35%.
You can see how your neighborhood is faring so far in 2020 compared to 2010 on this map from the City University of New York.
There were already concerns that people wouldn’t fill out the census due to the Trump administration’s efforts to put a citizenship question on the questionnaire. The question was blocked by the Supreme Court, but not before creating a lot of fear in undocumented communities.
New York City was making many new efforts to get a more complete count of its residents in 2020. Through initiatives like the Brooklyn Complete Count Committee, lawmakers were partnering community organizations to do outreach and in-person events throughout 2020. But now, the coronavirus pandemic has put in-person outreach on hold, and preoccupied people with more immediate concerns like illness, death and job loss.
Brooklyn can’t afford another undercount, especially as New York City is looking at slashing the budget for things like the summer youth employment program and the bike and pedestrian safety initiative known as Vision Zero.
There’s still time to fill out the census. October 31, 2020 is the new deadline. You can fill out the census online, over the phone, or by mail, and please do so! Your neighbors are counting on you.