The 2010 U.S. Census has been challenged by marketers for two decades for undercounting segments of the minority population, particularly Latinos. The 2020 count is set to encounter the historically unprecedented obstacle of COVID-19 in its effort to mobilize community outreach that now requires social distancing protocols. 

Particularly challenging is the historic lack of trust of many immigrants, some of which are undocumented and fear deportation.  Inner city and remote rural communities are also disenfranchised without access to broadband internet – a key challenge in outreach.

With the COVID-19 pandemic on the rise, the contentious racial climate and the election season, the Census is competing for the public’s attention. An accurate count may be an insurmountable goal.  The implications go beyond the allocation of local and federal budgets in health, social services, transportation, capital projects and education. Did you know that Census data impacts access to broadband for many Americans?  Only half of U.S. households have access to broadband, especially in rural areas. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) determines who has access to broadband based on Census data that assumes if minimal or low number of residents have broadband than the entire community does.  That is not the case as Gigi Sohn, a former senior staff at the FCC and a distinguished fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy, shared in a recent CBS News report.   

 “As modern Americans, we count among our blessings that most of us have been able to keep going during this pandemic — working, educating our kids, consulting with our doctors – thanks to broadband Internet. That is, high-speed Internet.

There’s only one problem: “Tens of millions of Americans are not connected to broadband internet,” said Sohn.

She said the number of people who don’t have broadband depends on who you ask: “If you ask the Federal Communications Commission, they’ll say it’s only something along the lines of 20 to 23 million people, and that is a grossly undercounted number. Microsoft has done a study that showed 162 million Americans don’t have broadband at the speeds that the FCC defines ‘broadband.'” If you’re scoring at home, that’s about half the population of the U.S. with either very slow internet or none at all.”

As marketers, we have learned to rely on academics, pollsters, think tank researchers, and behavioral scientists as due diligence partners to fill the gap of quantitative research in the development of targeted campaigns for our clients. The Census is an example of how an incorrect, constitutionally mandated count could challenge access to communications and information.   Therefore, it is top of mind for Comunicad’s multicultural research. Our research efforts are grounded on identification and analysis of our clients’ target audience and market in order to quantify and qualify tactics that reach, resonate and demonstrate cultural competence. Latino data is thought to be undercounted due to the lack of access of a fearful immigrant community.  Yet Pew Data validates that minorities account for a significant number of the U.S. population, indicating that Latinos in the U.S., surpass 60.6 million–the 2nd largest ethnic group.

As marketers, it behooves us to support the Census 2020 count by advocating in collaboration with community-based organizations, nonprofits, influencers and corporate leadership on the critical importance of an accurate count.  As we strategically deal with value creation of communications aimed at market growth in the multicultural sectors, we must be part of the push to be counted.

For marketing professionals and leaders of nonprofit organizations, the link below provides information on resources that you can share with your clients. It also explains the history of the census and what the nonprofit and philanthropic communities have done so far to mobilize for Census 2020.

In Puerto Rico, where I was born and raised, the Census response rate has improved, but it is still one of the lowest in the nation. A series of natural disasters such as devastating hurricanes and earthquakes and disruption brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have negatively impacted census related activity on the island. An undercounting of the people living in Puerto Rico may cause the island to be excluded from a many sources of funding programs including the $1.5 trillion per year allocations in federal funding by Congress.

We also send Kudos to the Hispanic Federation’s Census 2020 social media campaign that is facilitating a link to the Census questionnaire to Latinos across the nation and Puerto Rico, with an easy click on any mobile device to complete the form.

We have just several weeks left to self-respond to the once-a-decade count before the new end-of-September deadline. The census must count everyone living in the United States!

Gloria Rodriguez

President and CEO

Comunicad, LLC