Chicago’s census count lags behind as deadline approaches

The census count in Chicago is lagging behind the rest of Illinois, particularly in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods in the city.

The undercount, just weeks before the deadline, has neighborhood groups and census officials working to boost participation.

Illinois’ response rate is 70%, which is slightly higher than the national average. But the city’s rate is roughly 59% with some neighborhoods hovering around 30%, according to The Chicago Tribune.

Those neighborhoods include the largely Black West Englewood neighborhood and Little Village, which has a large Hispanic population.

“The potential negative impact is just really widening some of those inequities across the region,” said Erin Aleman, executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, which has looked at response rates. “The disparities that currently exist have the potential to worsen if there are less resources available based on undercounts.”

Communities with lower response rates have been among those hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, Aleman said.

The undercount comes as the deadline is fast approaching.

Usually it’s in July, but it was extended to October’s end because of the pandemic. However, the GOP-led Senate didn’t take up the extension request, forcing a revised schedule that has the census ending in September. A lawsuit over the deadline is pending with a court hearing scheduled for Thursday.

Census data is used to calculate federal funding and determine representation in Congress.

Census officials and neighborhood groups are trying increase participation.

Ellisa Johnson, deputy regional director for the Census Bureau in Chicago, said the office is “pulling out all the stops” before the deadline. For example, workers are being deployed into low-response communities.