The U.S. government will attempt to locate and count just about everybody in the census next year, but if Kern County follows the pattern of the past, more than a few people won’t participate.
As many as 27.2 percent of households within the county are unlikely to take part in 2020 census, according to the Census Bureau, leaving Kern County at risk of losing federal funds and infrastructure investments it would have otherwise been eligible for.
The Kern Complete Count Committee hopes to change that.
The state-funded group has plans to knock on 400,000 doors in Kern County before the next census to get as many people to take part in the 10-year count as possible, particularly among typically undercounted populations.
The census is used for a variety of purposes. Business owners use census data to determine where to open new locations. Government workers use the data to award grants to localities. And census data is used to form legislative districts.
“The more accurate the count, the better it is for Kern County,” Reyna Olaguez, a member of the committee, said at a press conference Monday.
She said people of color, renters and low-income households have all historically been underrepresented on the census.
Vast swaths of Kern County are considered “hard to reach,” meaning the people living in those areas are at risk of not participating in the census.
Areas in southeast Bakersfield like Lakeview and the neighborhoods along Cottonwood Road are considered the hardest places to reach in the county.
Many of the residents of those neighborhoods have an aversion to government, said Sophia Garcia, a GIS analyst for the committee, and partnering with trusted local groups will be important for the committee if it hopes to reach as many people as possible.
“Across every sector, we’re making sure it’s a non-partisan issue, that we’re focused on just counting everybody in Kern,” she said.
State leaders have already invested $100.3 million in complete count efforts throughout the state, with another $54 million proposed.
Kern County has been designated $825,000 for outreach efforts.
Jesus Garcia, lead data analysis for the committee, said Kern County was considered one of the hardest regions to count in the state.
Despite the large pool of resources, Garcia said it might not be enough. With as many people as the committee hopes to reach, funds will have to be used wisely in order to be put to good use.
“When you’re trying to contact every individual household, it becomes apparent that there’s not enough money,” he said.
However, committee leaders expect to launch a full effort into counting as many people in Kern County as possible.
“We’re all going to be counted,” Dee Slade, executive director of the African-American Network of Kern County said before addressing the hard-to-count communities in Kern County. “We need you. You’re not someone that we come to just to posture. We’re absolutely reaching out to you, every one of you of color, every person that lives here in the city of Bakersfield, the county of Kern, be counted.”