Updated Illinois census numbers show racial disparities in counting process, expert says

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The population of Illinois was significantly undercounted in the 2020 census, according to the latest update from the US Census Bureau. An expert says it could be due to the Trump administration’s anti-immigration policies.

In the 2020 census, there were Federal lawsuits to require a citizenship question on the census form. Cynthia Buckley, a professor and demographer at the University of Illinois, said she thinks this likely makes migrant communities more hesitant than usual to be counted.

Buckley said this disproportionately affects Illinois’ 2020 census tally.

“Illinois, both in the agricultural South and in Chicagoland in terms of manufacturing, attracts a large number of international migrants. This is a good thing. We’re one of the portal states, and we’re the only one in the Midwest,” Buckley said.

A gateway state is a state such as Illinois that attracts immigrants and offers work and life opportunities, with the potential to move to other states in the region.

Details on Illinois undercount (by about 1.97%) come from the Census Bureau’s post-enumeration survey, which is standard procedure for improving census data in the future.

But these survey data have their limitations. Census Bureau officials are quick to point out that their report does not enter into the causes of these net over- and under-counts by State. The agency is not expected to release state-level overcount or undercount rates by race and ethnicity or any rates for counties, cities or towns.

Although population-based federal funding may be adjusted after this survey, demographic data becomes less accurate. Buckley said this resulted in a loss of information about Illinois citizens.

“It’s not as useful as if everyone fills out their census form and we have a correct count to start with, because we don’t get detailed information like racial and ethnic minorities or linguistic minorities or age,” Buckley said.

Buckley said bipartisan support for immigration could boost census responses in 2030.

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