The 2020 census officially kicks off on April 1.
Each decade, as mandated by the Constitution, the United States counts every resident within its borders. This population count is used to determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives, to draw state legislative districts, and to distribute billions of dollars in federal funds to local communities. REALTORS® can play an important role in making sure the 2020 census accurately counts Texans.
“The census affects our business more than any other business,” says Shad Bogany, a past Texas REALTORS® chairman and partner specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau working on generating awareness of the 2020 census. “Whether you’re a part-time agent, full-time agent, or broker, you should want to get everyone counted in your community.”
The Impact of the Census
Census Quick Facts
Why is there a census?
Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution requires a head count every 10 years of all residents of the United States.
When was the first census?
What’s new in 2020?
For the first time, the form can be filled out online. Responses can also be returned by phone or mail.
What does the census do?
Census data is widely used by local, state, and federal governments and private businesses. Three important ways the data is used are determining how many legislators each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives, drawing state legislative districts, and distributing more than $675 billion annually in federal funds to tribal, state, and local governments.
How does the census affect my industry?
In addition to affecting who represents you in government and money your community receives, census data is used to determine what areas are eligible for housing assistance and rehabilitation loans, forecasting future transportation needs, and assisting with emergency response programs to name just a few ways it impacts your clients and industry.
Is my response confidential?
Yes. The Census Bureau is required by law to keep all individual responses confidential for 72 years.
An accurate count of Texans would help ensure the state is properly represented at the national level and receives the federal funding it’s due. More than 300 federal spending programs rely on data derived from the census to guide the distribution of dollars to states, counties, cities, and households. Texas received nearly $60 billion in fiscal year 2016 from just 55 large federal spending programs that are guided by data from the 2010 census, according to George Washington University’s Counting for Dollars Project, a program that studies the connection between the census and the distribution of federal funds.
“The biggest part of the census is the funding it brings to the state of Texas,” Bogany says. “We should want our money to come back into the state.”
The data derived from the 2020 census will help determine funding for schools, housing assistance and loan programs, infrastructure programs, transportation grants, energy assistance, disaster aid, and employment assistance to name just a few ways the real estate industry will be affected. Private companies—such as developers and large employers or businesses like retail chains, grocery stores, and franchises—also rely on census data to decide where to locate and make forecasts that guide their investment decisions.
The Census Bureau estimates that it undercounted Texans by about 239,500 residents in 2010. About two thirds of the state’s population lives in census tracts where the low response score—the likelihood someone will not respond to the census—is above average. And the Census Bureau estimates that the population of Texas has grown by more than 14% from the 2010 census to 2018, which is the most recent estimate.
If the state’s population were undercounted in 2020, Texas could potentially lose billions in funding, and the data that drives redistricting, important government services, and private economic development decisions would be faulty. Some estimates indicate that Texas will add three congressional seats, but an incomplete count could jeopardize that possibility.
How Texas REALTORS® Can Spread Awareness
Ways REALTORS® Can Help
There are a number of ways REALTORS® can reach out to their sphere to spread the word about the importance of the 2020 census. If you’re looking for ways to get involved, start here:
- Join or start a Complete Count Committee. Learn more at census.gov.
- Contact your local REALTOR® association and volunteer to help with 2020 census efforts.
- Reach out to current and former clients about the census.
- Speak at community events about the importance of the census.
- Stress the local benefits to HOAs in areas you work.
- Add information about the importance of the census and how to respond to your website or social media channels.
Visit texasrealestate.com/2020census for information about the census, links to how you can get involved, and more.
“Our role is to make people aware of the census,” says Bogany. “Then ask them to fill out the survey.”
The 2020 census form will include 10 or 11 questions and should take about 10 minutes to complete. Each household will receive an invitation to complete the questionnaire by mail, phone, or—for the first time—online. The form will be available in English and Spanish versions to mail, and many different languages will be available online. An in-person interview option may also be available for those who need it. All individual census responses are confidential for 72 years.
Texas REALTORS® and NAR are official partners with the U.S. Census Bureau to help drive participation for the 2020 census. In addition, many individual REALTORS® and local boards have volunteered to raise awareness of the 2020 census and encourage members of their communities to respond. For example, the Collin County Association of REALTORS® produced public service announcement videos with members of the association promoting the 2020 census in a number of different languages.
One of the prominent ways to get involved in promoting the 2020 census is to join or form a Complete Count Committee. These are volunteer groups that spread the word in their own communities about the importance of the census, and resources and training are available to members of Complete Count Committees to help. The committees can plan kickoff events and rallies, partner with other organizations, and host or support other events, Bogany says. REALTOR® leaders and staff across the state have become involved in Complete Count Committees.
“It’s about smaller groups helping us with the bigger job,” he says. “They have local knowledge and can help us promote the census through targeted outreach efforts.”
Bogany has traveled to speak at local REALTOR® associations, other industry groups, and local meetings about the importance of the 2020 census and why a complete count is vital to the real estate industry and communities.
“Texas is one of the few states that decided not to have an organized effort to be counted,” Bogany says. “That’s going to leave it to us as professionals who count on accurate population counts.”
Texas failed to pass any measure in the past legislative session allocating funds or establishing a statewide effort to ensure an accurate count. In contrast, California will spend as much as $154 million on the 2020 census.
“If Texas REALTORS® are setting the tone, that brings in other businesses who realize they benefit too,” Bogany says. “We have standing in our communities and this state, and this is for a good cause.”