- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio kicked off a $40 million Complete Count Campaign to ensure a complete and accurate 2020 census count.
- As part of the campaign, the city will spend $8 million on media and advertising, the most it's ever invested in these areas. Of that spending, $3 million will be invested in community and ethnic media, with advertising in 16 languages.
- To reach hard-to-count communities, New York will also launch campaign-style organizing focused on historically undercounted communities, data analysis, modern outreach tactics and media that will feature "everyday New Yorkers and trusted community voices." The campaign is being conducted with 15 advocacy and community organizations, including the Brooklyn NAACP, the Asian American Federation and the New York Immigrant Coalition.
New York’s spending may be setting records for any media campaign, but officials say the importance of the census makes it worthwhile. An undercount could cost the city billions in federal funding, including for vital programs like Headstart and Medicaid, and could even cost Congressional representation (a 2018 study said the city could lose up to two seats in Congress).
The 2020 census also comes under the cloud of the Trump administration's effort to include a citizenship question, which has reduced trust in the effort and led to concerns that immigrant populations will respond at lower rates.
"No matter how hard the federal government tries to silence our diverse voices, we still stand up and be counted," said de Blasio in a statement.
Although the federal government administers the census, city and local governments have long played a role in engaging their communities and doing the micro-level work that the federal government couldn’t do. However, many cities have said they’ll do more this year. Not only is mistrust high, but budget cuts have hampered the census rollout. This will be the first count conducted mostly online, leading to fears that some citizens may be left out if they do not have sufficient broadband or digital literacy.
That means reaching typically hard-to-count groups is important, and can be done best with the kind of local knowledge and outreach that local governments have. Although the Census Bureau has announced a $500 million ad campaign nationally, states and cities have stepped up their spending: California, for example, has announced $187 million in Census spending, the most of any state. Illinois will spend $29 million, most of it going to community organizations.
"The federal government spends a lot of money to reach everyone, but the people who are most likely to respond to that are easy to count," Jonathan Williams, a data science manager at Civis Analytics who has researched Census efforts, told Smart Cities Dive. "That leaves populations that are harder to count, and local governments, cities, counties and states and advocacy groups have an easier time making the case to those populations. We’re in a position where every bit counts.”