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The 2020 Census and the Digital Divide

Louisville, KY (May 20, 2019) - Every 10 years, the United States undergoes activities to count all the people in the country in the form of a census. The next census will be in 2020, and there are significant changes to how the data will be collected from all individuals and households.

Since the first decennial census in 1790, the number of questions has continued to increase from the original six, and the applications of the data have been enhanced. But the most significant outcomes remain in how our congressional districts are drawn and how federal funds are distributed to states and communities.

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The U.S. Census Bureau has been conducting several activities to prepare for the 2020 Census; to effectively count around 330 million people in more than 140 million housing units, there are years of research, planning, and testing that go into census activities. In order to make self-reporting more efficient, in the hope that more people will respond during the initial public response period, the Census Bureau has reviewed and tested several response options for the upcoming count.

The 2020 Census marks the first time responses can be completed online. This is a significant step in collecting essential information across the country, but what happens when 24 million Americans do not have broadband access?

Those in the Digital Divide will not be able to take part in the online version of the 2020 Census that so many other Americans will access. In areas unserved by broadband, the Census Bureau will need to rely on phone and mail responses, along with the traditional method of door-to-door census takers visiting the households where responses have not been received.

Census data collections, just like accurate maps of broadband availability, are essential for policymakers to direct available funds. Without complete datasets, it becomes educated guessing or decisions based on inaccurate information

There must be a path forward to bring broadband access to all Americans, whether they live in urban, suburban, or rural parts of the country. Broadband access and adoption would not only increase the responses to the decennial census, but they would also aid in educational opportunities, job searches and telework possibilities, economic development, telehealth, e-government services, and more.

Hitt Ashley 02 200x300Everyone needs to be accounted for in the 2020 Census, just as everyone belongs in a Connected Nation.


About the author: Ashley Hitt is the Director of GIS Services for Connected Nation. Ashley oversees the day-to-day operations of the GIS team. She’s responsible for developing strategies using GIS to provide data visualization solutions that impact policy, economic development, and the digital divide.