Census analysis shows Black Americans may have been significantly undercounted

A new look at the 2020 Census is showing some troubling new findings with potentially millions of Black Americans uncounted.

DETROIT – A new look at the 2020 Census is showing some troubling new findings with potentially millions of Black Americans uncounted.

New studies looking into the U.S. Census reveals a potential massive undercount of Black Americans -- about 2 million people. Anywhere from 3% to 7% of Black Americans appear to have not been counted in Detroit -- roughly 17,000 to 38,000 residents. This could mean huge problems for social programs that assist in nearly every aspect of the most underserved communities.

“I’m very concerned,” said Rep. Brenda Lawrence. “I was concerned while it was going on.”

Lawrence said she had her worries about the Census before the new numbers were revealed. There were inherent hurdles to getting a good count, mixed with funding cuts, changes to the process and a count that was stopped early.

Related: Abrupt census deadline may cost Michigan $300 million in federal funding, Congressional seats

“It was a perfect storm. You had COVID, you have this inherent generational resentment to government knocking on your door and asking questions, then you add to that the digital divide. ‘Go online and fill it out and if not, we’ll come knock on your door,’” Lawrence said.

The U.S. Census Bureau is starting a Post-Enumeration Survey (PES) where it tries to figure out what went right and wrong with the Census. That was supposed to have started in late October, but it won’t start until early November and won’t be finished until February. In the meantime, the money to help Detroiters will need to be allocated and spent while knowing thousands may not be getting what they need.

“We, as a country, have come together and said we’re going to take care of the least,” Lawrence said. “If we don’t have the right number, we’re not going to do that effectively.”

Undercounts aren’t new in the Census. In communities of color, low income communities, children and the homeless are often missed in the count. Some experts said the 2020 count could be the worst undercount in nearly 70 years.

Not much can be done once the Census is done. Those are the numbers that are counted. Detroit mayor Mike Duggan and Rep. Rashida Tlaib have challenged the Census Bureau on their count and Lawrence said she’s already pushing for changes to the 2030 to avoid the same problems.

Related: More money for education, health care, roads: Why census is so important in Michigan


About the Authors:

Grant comes to Local 4 from Oklahoma City. He joins the news team as co-anchor of Local 4 News Today weekend mornings and is a general assignment reporter.

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.