By Julie Giordano Plotkin

April 1, 2020, Census Day, has come and gone. Census invitations and first reminders have gone out. The online survey site and call-in centers have been active for months, and by all estimates, this year’s household participation rate, even prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 in mid-March, may be lower than at this point in the 2010 census. Areas of New Jersey where 2010 census participation was particularly low, are at greatest risk of being missed and, therefore, the most significant risk for harm.

The stakes are high. The size of New Jersey’s congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., and federal funding for our schools, for Medicare, Medicaid, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are all determined by the census. Population statistics use census data to determine rates of disease, poverty, employment and crime. Accuracy depends on a complete census count.

Now is the time to get out the count

Respond to the census, if you haven’t done so already. Ask everyone you know to do the same. Consider including census-related topics in your lesson plans, and/or check in with your local Complete Count Committee to help ensure everyone in your community is counted.

If you have ties to a hard-to-count population, please consider getting involved. Your community’s trust in you can make all the difference in someone’s decision to participate.

Hard to count areas

Areas where a low percentage of residents completed and returned the 2010 census are considered hard-to-count areas. Cities can be the hardest to count with low participation rates as listed here for some of our state’s largest municipalities: Irvington (50%), Atlantic City (55%), City of Orange (55%), Newark (55%), Asbury Park (56%), New Brunswick (56%), Trenton (59%), Jersey City (60%), Paterson (60%), and Camden (61%).

According to ACNJ Fact Sheets:

      148,166 children under age 5 live in hard- to-count areas of New Jersey.
That comprises 28% of the total population of children under age 5 in the state.

      190,008 Asian people live in hard-to-count areas of New Jersey. That comprises 21% of the total Asian population in the state.

      668,636 Black or African American people live in hard-to-count areas of New Jersey. That comprises 51% of the total Black population in the state.

      696,085 Hispanic or Latinx people live in hard-to-count areas of New Jersey. That comprises 40% of the total Hispanic population in the state.

Hard to count populations

The U.S. Census Bureau considers populations hard to count if they are:

  Hard to locate – Populations can be both hard to sample and hard to identify by some characteristic of interest (e.g., nomadic peoples and those hard to identify because of stigma and motivated misreporting, sometimes for reasons of personal safety).

  Hard to contact – Once located, populations can be difficult to physically access (e.g., gated communities or populations experiencing homelessness).

  Hard to persuade – Once accessed, populations may be reluctant to participate in enumeration (e.g., political dissidents or those who feel that they are too busy to participate).

  Hard to interview – Once engaged, enumeration itself may be hindered by some barrier (e.g., lack of a shared language, low literacy or some form of disability).


A census worker engaged in address canvassing to improve and refine
the U.S. Census Bureau’s address list in advance of the 2020 Census.
Photo from

Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) has identified five demographic groups in need of targeted census outreach: Asian, Latinx, Black/African American, children under age 5, and households with limited or no internet access. ACNJ has compiled detailed fact sheets and mapping tools, which can be found on the Complete Count page of the Fund for New Jersey’s website. 

Key Dates

Jan. 21: The U.S. Census Bureau began counting remote Alaska.

March 12- August 14: Public Self-Response Phase, extended by two weeks due to COVID-19.

April 1: Census Day is observed nationwide. By this date, every home should have received an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census.

April 15: Due to COVID-19, the U.S. Census Bureau suspended field operations until April 15, 2020.

May 28 – August 14: Census takers will interview households in person that have not responded online, by phone or by mail. Dates adjusted two weeks forward due to COVID-19.

December: The Census Bureau will deliver apportionment counts to the president and Congress.

Student Run Makerspace – With little space and no budget, students from PANTHER Academy in Paterson designed and build their own Makerspace. Students tinker in the Makerspace before schools, during lunch and afterschool, sometimes into the evening. The students design the space, the furniture and the tools they use to “make” stuff. They collaborate with school staff and the community to obtain the resources they need to become makers.

Online tools

Response Outreach Area Mapper (ROAM)
This Census Bureau tool was developed to make it easier to identify hard-to-survey areas and to provide a socioeconomic and demographic characteristic profile of these areas using American Community Survey. 

2020 Census Response Rate
Check out this map tool to see how your community is doing in real-time. 

2020 Census Complete Count Committee page with data visualization and contact info.

Children under five years of age are among the population of residents considered hard to count.


NJ Census Facebook page:

NJ Census Twitter feed:

Advocates for Children of New Jersey
Short on time? The most comprehensive NJ-specific census site is the Advocates for Children of New Jersey-sponsored “Census 2020 NJ,” where you will find a list of upcoming census events (with links), toolkits, and handouts. Visit

Census Counts resources page
Census Counts is a coalition of 15 national organizations, including the National Education Association, and dozens of community partners in more than 30 states. The Census Counts resources page contains toolkits, fact sheets and webinars on everything from census basics to cybersecurity to outreach to specific populations, including Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities; African American communities; Arab American communities; people with disabilities; families with young children; Latinx communities; LGBTQ+ communities, and Native American communities. Visit

NEA’s 2020 Census Toolkit
The National Education Association’s toolkit includes fliers to send home with students in English, Spanish and Vietnamese as well as posters and lesson plans.

Complete Count NJ Resources page
This page has a list of “Get Out the Count Hubs,” with links to organizations doing targeted outreach, including, but not limited to:

  • American Library Association
  • Arab American Institute Foundation
  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC)
  • Color of Change
  • Fair Count
  • Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM)
  • The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • National LGBTQ Task Force
  • National Urban League
  • Partnership for America’s Children
  • Rock the Vote
  • Yalla Count Me In (American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and Arab American Institute Foundation
  • Visit

Facts that affect a full count

  • New Jersey received $45,851,273,000 of census-guided federal spending in Fiscal Year 2017 as reported in “Counting for Dollars: The Role of the Decennial Census in the Geographic Distribution of Federal Funds,” by Andrew Reamer of George Washington Institute of Public Policy, April 17, 2018.
  • The poverty rate and the percentage of population living in rural areas explain two-thirds of the differences in federal funding allocated to the states, according Andrew Reamer in the same report as above.
  • New Jersey has lost a seat in Congress in three of last four censuses (1980, 1990, 2010).
  • Cancer-cluster investigations begin with census-tract level data, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,” from Sept. 27, 2013.
  • From 2014 through 2018, 13.4% of New Jersey’s households had either no home internet subscription or dial up-only, according to the latest American Community Survey  estimates from the U.S. Census and 5.9% of the state’s households had a cellular data plan only, which can be costly to use for nonessential services.
  • Young children are undercounted in the census at a higher rate than any other age group, according to William O’Hare in a 2015 report titled “The Undercount of Young Children in the U.S. Decennial Census.”
  • Approximately 22% of New Jersey’s population was born outside the U.S., an estimated 1,968,060 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s “American Community Survey, 2014-2018.”

Shelter-in-place census issues

Do you have a college student or young adult sheltering-in-place with you?

The U.S. Census Bureau says you should NOT include them as members of your household even if they were residing with you on April 1, 2020. College student and others should respond and count themselves where they “live and sleep most of the time.” For more information, see

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