Black, Latino and Native American residents across the U.S. were seriously undercounted by the 2020 census, while white and Asian American residents were overcounted, the Census Bureau has said.

Despite the total population count being fairly accurate, around 19 million people — predominantly younger people in minority groups — were miscounted, according to new census data.

The issue isn’t new; Black, Latino and Native American residents are historically undercounted in the census, The New York Times reports, especially those who live in poor urban communities, those who live on reservations and those who are undocumented.

According to the recently released findings, the 2020 census double counted some 5.2 million people, wrongly excluded 2 million people and missed others entirely.

Although the Census Bureau did not say how many people it missed entirely, it said it missed counting 4.99 of every 100 Hispanics, 5.64 of every 100 Native Americans and 3.3 of every 100 African Americans, NYT reports.

However, for every 100 residents counted, the census wrongly added 1.64 non-Hispanic whites and 2.62 ethnic Asians.

In a statement, Robert L. Santos, the bureau’s director, said it was notable that despite the discrepancies, the 2020 census was consistent with other recent censuses, “given the unprecedented challenges of 2020.”

“But the results also include some limitations — the 2020 census undercounted many of the same population groups we have historically undercounted, and it overcounted others.”

The 2020 census was held during the height of the coronavirus pandemic and faced  serious interference by the Trump administration, as well as facing a number of other challenges. The context led many to fear undercounting would happen.

“Many of you, including myself, voiced concerns. How could anyone not be concerned?” Santos said as he announced the figures.

“These findings will put some of those concerns to rest and leave others for further exploration.”

Census numbers are used for reallocating each state’s share of congressional seats and Electoral College votes, redrawing voting districts, and guiding the distribution of an estimated $1.5 trillion each year in federal money to communities for health care, education, transportation and other public services, NPR reports.

Already, NYT reports some advocacy groups are threatening legal action. National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial told reporters the group’s lawyers were considering legal action to try to secure a remedy.

“We’ve talked about voter suppression. Now we see population suppression. And when you tie them together, it is the poisonous tree of seeking to diminish the distribution of power in this nation on a fair and equitable basis.”

The report only spotlights national-level figures, with the bureau saying state-level figures would be released this summer.

Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

Join the Conversation


  1. Oh please, enough of the po’ minorities not gettin’ counted …for more govt-supplied freebies.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.