Our Community Counts

Accurate census data is essential to our region’s future

July 30, 2018

By Linda Beech Cutler, 
Chief Executive Officer

Through our community leadership, the Foundation specializes in bringing engaged community members together to make measurable differences in some of the capital area’s toughest issues – from fostering a more generous region and nurturing a thriving cultural community, to expanding equitable access to higher education and creating a healthy, accessible food system for all.

Occasionally, our advocacy for the region – its dynamic communities, its diverse people – extends beyond our local leadership in these areas, and, in further service to our mission, we engage in topics that can impact philanthropy and the Sacramento area on a broader scale.

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Advocating for a fair and accurate 2020 Census is a perfect example of such an issue.

At the Foundation, we know that a fair and accurate 2020 Census is vital to every community, of every size, and of every geographic and demographic and political composition: After all, the census is a crucial prerequisite to serve the needs of marginalized communities throughout our region, which rely on fair and accurate counts to determine federal funding available for health care, education, transportation, housing, civil rights enforcement, job training, law enforcement, food, legal services, and more.

Further, we know past censuses have tended to undercount communities of color, people in poverty, young children, and rural residents. In Sacramento County alone, more than $115 million in federal funding has been lost since 2010 due to an undercount in that year’s census. We believe this problem will only intensify with the 2020 Census, as Sacramento County has been identified as the 10th hardest-to-count county in California and the 40th in the nation.*

Recognizing that the systemic undercounting of vulnerable communities decreases their access to federal funding and representation, last week in a letter to the Census Bureau, the Foundation’s Board of Directors urged the withdrawal of a proposed citizenship question from the 2020 Census. In doing so, they joined our organization with many of our community foundation colleagues across the nation in opposing the addition of the citizenship question.

To put it simply: We believe that adding the citizenship question to the 2020 Census will seriously threaten the Census’ accuracy, while substantially increasing costs and decreasing participation, harming our entire region, and most acutely our region’s most vulnerable.

I am honored to serve a Board of Directors that raises its voice for the needs of our community—on this urgent issue, and in all of our work in the Sacramento region—and I encourage you to follow their example by learning more about the proposed citizenship question and submitting an official comment to the Federal Register before the deadline for public comment on August 7.

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*Sacramento County 2020 Census FAQ for Municipalities, July 6, 2018