State Watch

Boston mayor challenges census count, saying college students and immigrants were undercounted

AP/Charles Krupa

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu (D) is challenging the 2020 census count of the city, arguing that college students, immigrants and people in correctional facilities were undercounted. 

The census found the city’s population to be 675,647. The mayor’s office in an announcement Tuesday said pandemic disruptions caused thousands of people to be missed in the count, also raising objections to racial and ethnic classification changes put in place for the 2020 census. 

“Boston deserves an accurate census count across every neighborhood and community,” Wu said. “This count is the foundation to assess the needs of all of our communities, ensuring that Boston receives crucial federal resources, and it should reflect our full numbers.” 

City Councilor Liz Breadon (D) said in the announcement that the census count has consequences for the allocation of public resources, federal grants and assistance programs that the city receives. 

The announcement states that the COVID-19 pandemic caused colleges and universities to evacuate their campuses in March 2020, a month before the census count occurred in April. Data collected from those universities during the fall 2019 semester shows that about 6,000 additional students were not counted by the 2020 data. 

Records from the Suffolk County Department of Corrections also show that its two correctional facilities housed about 500 additional residents on April 1, 2020, than the census reported. 

The city applied for a review of its close quarters count through the Post-Census Group Quarters Review program and provided the U.S. Census Bureau with these records to support its argument. 

The city also is expressing concern with the relatively low self-response rate for the household population count. Almost 30 census tracts, which are small subdivisions that the census sets to analyze the data it receives, in Boston had a self-response rate between 30 and 50 percent, while all tracts had above a 50 percent rate in 2010. 

Boston said that “the Census’ operation has failed to adequately address” the issue of low self-response rates amid the pandemic.

And it said the reclassification of race and ethnicity data led to large increases in the “some other race” and “two or more races” categories despite a lack of cultural or demographic shifts. 

More than three-quarters of Hispanics in Boston chose or were assigned to the “some other race” category alone or in addition to other categories, up from 45 percent in 2010, the announcement states. 

The 2020 census allowed participants to select one or more of the race options — white, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, or some other race. 

The city argues that the multiracial and “other” categories are too heterogeneous to be combined for analyzing data or creating policies or programs.

Tags 2020 Census Boston census Census Bureau Michelle Wu Michelle Wu undercounting

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