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California Census Chief: ‘Don’t be invisible’

Counting everyone comes down to money and power

special from California Black Media Contributor Charlene Muhammad | 1/10/2020, midnight
Even if you have people living with you who are not on your..

Even if you have people living with you who are not on your lease—or say your affordable housing application—you should still make sure they are counted during the 2020 Census, said Ditas Katague, director of the California Complete Count office.

“No enforcement agency, federal, local, or anything, can get that data,” she assures Californians. “It’s safe.”

Recently, Katague visited Los Angeles county, the hardest-to-count area in the United States and also a region in the state with census tracts where the most African Americans live. She was on a stop that was part of a statewide push to encourage all Californians to respond to next year’s census forms.

She spoke about the state’s $187.3 million investment to get an accurate count of all Californians. Katague also shared details about what her office has been doing so far to achieve that, and she give some insights on why it has been so hard for census workers to get the African-American count right in the past.

CALIFORNIA BLACK MEDIA (CBM): What has your office done to reach out to Blacks in California—particularly to the Black population here in Los Angeles?

DITAS KATAGUE (DK): As you know, statewide, the money and the investment that both the governor and the legislature have made across the state have been unprecedented. That’s because California is the hardest-to-count state in the country. In fact, the city of L.A. is the hardest-to-count city and Los Angeles County is the hardest-to-count county in the hardest-to-count state.

So, even though our efforts are unprecedented, these are the reasons that we need to do that level of outreach. The U.S. Census is actually a federal operation, and so here at the state level, we don’t control any of the actual counting. We don’t design the form, but what we can control is reaching out, educating our Californians to make sure that they know how important it is to respond.

And to that end, we’ve divided the state. We’ve used data to really inform our partners on the ground about where they should be reaching out and to whom. It’s really about getting the word out through trusted community partners on the ground, and really connecting with folks to say why is it so important and what an accurate count means for them on the ground.

CBM: What makes L.A. and the state the hardest-to-count places?

DK: Well, for Los Angeles County, one of the things is that it’s so very diverse. In L.A. Unified School District, they speak over 200 languages. That is what makes our state so beautiful and so diverse, but it also makes it very hard to count.

Now, when we talk about hard to count from the state level, we looked at the state and we took these14 variables and we came up with a hard-to-count index based on them.

(Those variables are: Percentage of households without broadband subscriptions; percentage of households that are non-family; percentage of households that are renter occupied; percentage of housing units that are vacant; percentage of households that are crowded with more than 1.5 persons per room; percentage of population that is foreign-born; percentage of adults (25 or older) who are not high school graduates; percentage of population with income below 150 percentage of the poverty level; percentage of households receiving public assistance; percentage of persons (ages 16 or older) unemployed; percentage of limited-English households; percentage of persons who moved from outside a county in the past year; percentage of population under 5; and percentage of total housing units with three or more units in a multi-unit structure.)