Black wards close to being undercounted by 55 percent in 2020 Census


With nearly two weeks before the deadline, 177,000 households in Black wards haven’t been counted

By Erick Johnson

Chicago’s predominately Black wards are in danger of being heavily undercounted with just two weeks left before the 2020 deadline, according to a Crusader analysis of the ward reports, which tracks the response rates of all 50 wards.

The situation also looks daunting throughout Chicago, where nearly half a million households in the city’s Black, Hispanic and white wards have not submitted their census counts as the September 30 deadline nears.

Of 18 Black wards, eight have response rates lower than 50 percent and only three have response rates higher than 60 percent, the Crusader has learned. Since July, the 16th ward has had the lowest or second lowest response rate of all 50 wards. As of Monday, the response rate in the 16th ward was just 42.4 percent. That means the majority or 8,943 residents in the 16th ward are in jeopardy of not being counted in the 2020 Census.

The overall response rate of the 18 Black wards is 54.29 percent as of September 7. That means 176,798 households in 18 Black wards have not been counted.

These Black wards are trailing white and Hispanic wards, which are also in danger of being heavily undercounted, despite their higher response rates.

In Chicago’s 14 Hispanic wards, just three have response rates lower than 50 percent, but only three have response rates higher than 60 percent, city data show. Overall, 54.96 percent of 257,193 households in Hispanic wards have submitted their census counts, but 115,823 are in danger of being excluded in the 2020 Census.

Chicago’s 14 predominately white wards have maintained the highest response rates in the entire city. All of the wards have response rates higher than 50 percent. Twelve wards have response rates higher than 60 percent, and four have response rates higher than 70 percent. The 65.1 percent response rate in white wards is higher than the city’s 59.3 percent response rate. Still 184,253 households in white neighborhoods have not submitted their census counts.

Overall, a total of 476,874 households in all 50 wards have not submitted their census counts.

In the 2010 Census, there were concerns that the city’s Black population was undercounted by as much as 50,000, mainly because of the hard-to-count neighborhoods.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been active and vocal in generating awareness and boosting the city’s participation in the census counts. In July, Lightfoot recruited 33-year-old Adam Hollingsworth, who was known as the “Census Cowboy.”

To encourage Chicago residents to fill out the 2020 Census, the Census Cowboy rode through 10 communities with the lowest census response rates. Two of those communities were Woodlawn and South Shore.

With the coronavirus pandemic and the city’s budget talks, that effort has had limited impact on the city’s response rate and those in Black neighborhoods. With two weeks away before the deadline, time is running out for Black neighborhoods to stand up and be counted.

To find out their plans for boosting response rates in the last two weeks of the census count, the Crusader emailed all 18 Black aldermen. The email included a chart that contained the response rate of their wards.

Brian Berg, a spokesperson for Alderman Anthony Beale (9th Ward), said Beale’s campaign staff is going door to door with the census takers. Berg said he is also calling constituents to encourage participation and to fill out the census form.

Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd Ward) said her ward is holding various census events with other elected officials, promoting the census on various social media platforms. Dowell said she will make the census count part of food and PPE giveaways. Dowell also said she will connect census organizations such as Acclivus to homeless shelters, senior citizen buildings and other events. In addition, Dowell said she will help census workers get access to high rise buildings, where she can.

Alderman Leslie Hairston (5th Ward), said her ward has held community events to boost participation in the census. She noted the ‘Census Cowboy’ visit last month to the Local Market in the Jeffrey Plaza in South Shore. This weekend, Hairston said she will be in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood for a voter registration drive, community clean up and census awareness activities.

The 16 other aldermen did not respond by Crusader press time Wednesday for its print edition.

There is also concern about the impact Chicago’s declining population will have on the city’s ability to get enough federal funding.

The census count is important for cities to receive adequate federal funding for schools, housing and infrastructure costs.

Leaders predict a decline in federal funding could result in a $1 billion loss over the next decade. Governor JB Pritzker said at a press conference April 1 that the state risks losing $195 million per year for each 1 percent of the undercounted population.

The census is also important for determining the number of political districts that states will have represented in the U.S. Congress.

Residents can submit their counts by mail, online or by phone. To submit your census by mail and for more information on the U.S. Census, go to

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