Philadelphia Behind in Census Preparation?

A new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts claims that Philadelphia is behind other cities in preparing for the 2010 Census. The study, which compares Philadelphia to five larger cities (Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and Phoenix) and five considered to be similar to Philadelphia and their traditional Census preparations (Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Detroit and Pittsburgh) shows that Philadelphia is behind many of these cities in both financial and organizational preparations.

Philadelphia's primary difference from other cities seems to come in financing. Unlike past Census collections, Philadelphia does not plan to allocate city funds to the effort (most cities have less funds to allocate to the Census than in previous years - Los Angeles is spending half as much as they did in 2000, for instance). What makes Philadelphia different is the lack of funds donated so far (only $12,500, compared to $900,000 in Chicago, $500,000 in Boston, and at least $75,000 in Detroit to do outreach to traditionally undercounted populations).

Other challenges affecting preparation include staffing (most cities will be relying on volunteers-in Philadelphia, the city coordinator has recently had the assistance of additional staffers), naming a citywide coordinating committee (seven cities have announced their committees; Philadelphia plans to do so "soon"), and implementing public service announcements (Philadelphia has a plan ready, but no money to fund it and no celebrity endorsers to date).

Why is all of this important? As we mentioned in a previous blog post, the Census is used to determine legislative districts for the next ten years as well as funding for social services. Minorities and the poor are often undercounted in the Census, making it important that the city and community groups be ready to provide outreach to these important groups. While the Pew report states that about .05% of the Philadelphia population went uncounted in the 2000 Census, compared to .09% undercounted in other cities studied. However, to ensure that even fewer go undercounted this time around, Philadelphia needs to be ready to go when Census forms are sent out in 2010.

What do you think of the Census? Do you know of other groups working on Census issues? Please let us know in the comments!


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