Back in May, NPR reported that Puerto Rico was the lowest state or territory in responses to the 2020 Census. While 59% of American households in general had responded, only 8% of Puerto Rican households had filled out their census forms.
More recent data suggests that 20% of Puerto Ricans have responded by now. But with just over one month left for census takers to count everyone, Puerto Rico still has the lowest percentage of responses.
Does the census matter for Puerto Rico?
The U.S. Census takes place every ten years. This is required by our constitution.
The population information gathered by the census is used to determine the number of representatives each state has in the House of Representatives and in the Electoral College.
But Puerto Rico doesn’t have this kind of representation as states do. Puerto Rico has only one, largely non-voting representative in Congress, and no electors in the Electoral College.
So why does the census matter for Puerto Rico? Because more than 100 federal funding programs rely on census data. Programs like Medicaid, small business funding, school lunches, and more. The amount of funding for billions of dollars in federal programs relies on the census data about communities.
It’s not just the federal government that uses this data. Businesses use census data to decide where to build factories and offices. Nonprofits and other agencies rely on census data to make decisions about grants and programs. Emergency responders use this information to figure out where people might need help after a natural disaster.
Without an accurate count, the census data for Puerto Rico could easily show a smaller population in Puerto Rico than the reality. And that could mean that Puerto Rico gets less investment and support than it should.
How can Puerto Ricans respond to the census?
Everyone can respond to the U.S. Census online this year at my2020census.gov.
The Census offers more details for Puerto Rico on their Puerto Rico page.