"Hard to Count" Populations
Not everyone who should be counted does in fact get counted. Throughout history, many people have mistakenly assumed their young children did not need to be counted. For example, in a 1906 letter from American poet Edwin Markham to Nils Olas Nelson, both concerned with the issue of child labor, expressed concern that “..it is likely that tons of households were overlooked in 1900 when the census was made..” The persistent undercount of children can be inferred from other documentation. As an example, a circa 1885-1900 photograph of a group of 40 school children in West Nyack New York identifies specifically only two of the children as being listed in the 1892 census. Many people, fearing the “intrusiveness” of the questions, refuse to respond every time a Census is taken. But the federal government relies on Census data to guide how federal dollars are spent. Census-derived data sets are used to: define eligibility criteria for some programs; compute formulas for other program; rank projects based on population criteria (small towns, poorer neighborhoods, etc.); and are used to set interest rates for federal loan programs.
For example, Census data is used to provide federal funds for school districts. So, if young children are not counted, there is a good chance the districts they live in will not receive adequate funding. Likewise, people living in rural areas can be considered “hard to count” populations. The “Counting for Dollars Project” of the George Washington Institute of Public Policy has identified more than 320 census-guided federal spending programs, and among those, 55, or one in six, of these are targeted to rural communities, that in FY2016 amounted to $30.7 billion.
People who are not U. S. citizens are also often “undercounted” because they are reluctant to reveal themselves to an agency that could potentially report them to U.S. Immigration Services who might them have them detained and deported. Whether or not you are a US citizen, your responses to the US census remain confidential for 72 years.