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Census report shows large undercount of Latino population

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Suzanne Potter

(Nevada News Service) A new report found the 2020 census significantly undercounted the Latino population nationwide, by almost five percent, more than three times the undercount from the 2010 census.

By establishing population data, the census guides where federal dollars are spent.

Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said the undercount could mean less money for dozens of programs benefiting children and young adults in Nevada, including Medicaid and food assistance.

"The federal funding implicates things like education, child care services, transportation, parks and health care," Saenz outlined. "There isn't really a federal program or even state and local decision-making that is not going to be affected by an undercount in the census."

An analysis from the Urban Institute last winter projected an undercount of more than 20,000 people of all races statewide, including a slight overcount of white residents and a net undercount of 2.19 percent for Hispanics living in Nevada. 

Before the census, advocates warned of a significant undercount in the Latino population after the Trump administration tried to add a question about citizenship to the census.

Saenz believes the move was designed to trigger lower response rates, specifically from the Latino community. 

"And even though many of those efforts were stopped in court, the public attention to them clearly had an impact," Saenz observed. "That means that the Latino community will suffer as a result of that undercount over the course of the next decade."

The pandemic made it much harder to obtain an accurate count, because so many people had to move after losing their jobs. Children, particularly those from low-income families who tend to be renters, have traditionally been the hardest for census-takers to count.