* Ed McClelland at Chicago Magazine on the upcoming census…
“We’re going full bore on this,” says CEO Maria Whelan, whose nonprofit connects families with childcare and preschools. “Every employee is going to be a babbling idiot about the census.” The state can’t afford a repeat of what happened 10 years ago: Kids younger than 5 were undercounted by 36,000, costing Illinois $2,700 per child each year in federal assistance.
In all, the United States Census Bureau estimates it missed 59,800 Illinoisans the last time around. As a result, the state lost $122 million in federal health funding, according to the George Washington Institute of Public Policy. So it’s no surprise that Illinois is spending more than it ever has on the census, including $29 million from Springfield, $4 million from Cook County, and $2.7 million from Chicago. Illinois’s investment is the third highest per capita, after California and New York. […]
A particular challenge for Illinois: its high percentage of hard-to-count residents, especially immigrants. The state has 1.8 million foreign-born inhabitants, the nation’s sixth-highest total. And immigrants account for the population increase in the few parts of Illinois that are growing, especially the Fox River Valley. (Latinos are now the largest ethnic group in Aurora and Elgin.) It’s not news that immigrants — even legal ones — participate in the census at a lower rate than native-born Americans. This year, though, getting them to fill out a form will be even tougher, thanks to fears stoked by the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to census forms. While the Supreme Court rejected the question, just the fact that it was proposed has left many immigrants wary. Organizations that sued to keep the question off the census claimed it was intended to reduce the participation, and thus the political representation, of Latinos, who make up about 17 percent of Illinois’s population.
“We’ve got a lot to fight in terms of government mistrust,” says Jeanine Stroger, who is coordinating the Illinois Complete Count Committee for the Illinois secretary of state’s office. “That whole discussion left a chilling effect in the community.” Her office is distributing literature in five languages to municipal libraries, assuring residents that their individual census information will not be made public for 72 years.