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Expand chart
Data: AP analysis of Census Bureau data; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

About a quarter of the U.S. population —and more than 8 in 10 residents of Detroit — live in areas likely to be difficult for the census to accurately count next year, according to census data analyzed by the Associated Press.

Why it matters: "Hard to count" often translates to underrepresentation. The 2020 census will be the basis for allocating political power and government funding for the next decade.

  • Unauthorized immigrant populations, large minority populations, non-traditional households, lots of young children, poverty and lack of internet access can all lead to undercounting.

The big picture: State legislatures will refer to the newest census data in redrawing congressional districts next year. The population counts will determine how many congressional seats each state will receive. The updated data will inform politicians of the demographics, economic status and family structures of the people they represent.

  • As the nation rapidly moves toward a minority white society, one study this year found that next year's census could see the worst undercount of black and Latinx people in 30 years.
  • Undercounting has long been an issue for racial and ethnic minorities, giving them and the issues their communities care about even less political weight.

By the numbers: In half of U.S. census tracts nationwide, more than 20% of the population is predicted to not respond to the initial census questionnaire.

  • 86% of Detroit's population lives in hard-to-count areas — the highest of any city due to the tens of thousands of abandoned homes there, according to AP.

New Mexico (41%), California (40%), Texas (39%) and Nevada (37%) have the highest share of people living in areas with low census response rates.

  • These states have some of the fastest changing racial and ethnic makeups, and many have been a focus for both Democratic and GOP political campaigns.
  • The Trump campaign is trying to flip New Mexico in 2020.
  • Democrats are becoming more competitive in Texas, long a reliably Republican state.
  • Nevada has been a swing state and was only narrowly won by Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Between the lines: The 2020 census effort has been complicated by concerns about government underfunding, a failed effort by the Trump administration to add a question about citizenship to the questionnaire and technological concerns about answering questions digitally.

  • In a statement to Axios, a spokesperson for the U.S. Census Bureau said they are spending $500 million on marketing and advertising — up from $376 million in 2010.
  • "We've hired over 1,500 partnership specialists to work closely with local communities to ensure a complete and accurate count. Our partnership staff are hired locally from the communities we are encouraging to respond to the 2020 Census, especially the hard-to-count population."

States like California have allocated bigger budgets for efforts to engage with communities that have historically been undercounted.

  • Texas, Louisiana and Florida are among the states that have invested nothing in ensuring an accurate census count.
  • Despite hard-to-count concerns, Texas lawmakers have declined to pass bills to provide funding aimed at improving census response efforts. Nonprofits have stepped in, the Texas Tribune notes.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Democrats propose raising debt ceiling through midterms

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House and Senate leadership announced on Monday that they plan to attach a proposal to raise the debt ceiling through Dec. 2022 to a short-term, government funding bill. The bill must pass before the end of the month or Congress risks a shutdown.

Why it matters: Democrats are taking a huge risk by trying to force through an increase of the debt limit in its must-pass funding bill. The move is wishful thinking on behalf of Democrats who are hoping they can get at least 10 centrist Republicans to balk, as well as an effort to put Republicans on record opposing it.

Biden to stress U.S. does not seek new Cold War in UN speech

Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

President Biden will use his first address before the UN General Assembly to lay out his vision for an era of "intensive diplomacy" with allies and "vigorous competition" with great powers — without a Cold War with China.

Why it matters: Biden will take the podium in New York on Tuesday with his own international credibility in question after the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. His administration also is struggling to build international momentum to fight climate change, the pandemic and rising global authoritarianism.

7 hours ago - Health

Biden administration to lift travel ban for fully vaccinated international travelers

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients announced on Monday that the Biden administration will allow fully vaccinated travelers from around the world to enter the U.S. beginning in November.

Why it matters: The announcement comes as President Biden seeks commitments from countries to donate vaccines to the global COVAX initiative. He is expected to host a COVID summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this week, and many of the countries attending have expressed frustration with the travel ban.