Protecting New York from a census crisis

Common Cause New York is working to ensure a fair and accurate census count for 2020. The census is a complex operation to collect important demographic, social, and economic information and serves as the country’s best source for reliable nationwide and community-level data. 

A complete and accurate count for the 2020 Census will have wide-ranging and long term impacts throughout New York State. The census directly controls the number of New York representatives in the U.S. Congress. Policymakers use census data to identify community needs and distribute federal program dollars to states and localities based on community characteristics measured by the census.

Census 2020: New York

In 2010, New York was 45th in the nation with a 76 percent Census response rate. Alarmingly, the Census Bureau projects the response rate to drop in 2020. Furthermore, based on the latest census estimates, approximately 36% of New York’s current population lives in hard-to-count neighborhoods. There are real challenges ahead: state funding for outreach is nonexistent and in a state where more than 200 languages are spoken, the Census has severely limited language access for non-English speakers.


On March 31st, 2019 New York State legislature agreed to allocate $20 million in U.S. Census outreach funding, half of what community advocates argued was needed to ensure that an adequate count was carried out. As of October 2019, Governor Cuomo has not released these funds and no concrete details have been provided on how the state census funding will be distributed. The underfunding of key preparations has the potential to result in an undercount, particularly in hard-to-count communities, which could result in New York losing as many as two seats in Congress. 

Language Access

Additionally, the Census Bureau is denying language support for thousands of New Yorkers. While there are more than 200 languages spoken in New York, the Census Bureau is providing educational materials and guides in only 59 languages, and translating the online questionnaire into just 12 languages besides English. This means that as many as 113,000 New Yorkers will not have language support from the Census Bureau, further discouraging Latinx and immigrant communities from participating in the Census.

Common Cause New York is part of New York Counts, a coalition of civic organizations working to:

  • Demand that Governor Cuomo releases the funds allocated for census outreach;
  • Build public awareness about the importance of the census to increase the response rate;
  • Collaborate with trusted organizations to create connections to New York’s diverse communities for census awareness;
  • Ensure participation by counties, cities, and towns in the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) program.
Next Campaign

Fair and Transparent Mapmaking in 2021