A Census Recount for Federal Funding Purposes

Did you know…

  • That U.S. Census population counts determine federal funding, and that incorrect counts can cost the state millions in federal dollars?
  • The Census Bureau has a program for local governments to appeal housing unit counts or geographic boundaries that they believe are inaccurate?
  • The Texas State Demographer is available to help?

The Census Count Question Revision (CQR) Program allows tribal, state, and local governments to request a review of counts of housing units from the 2020 Decennial Census. If these governmental units have concerns about potentially inaccurate housing counts or legal boundaries for their governments, the CQR program will review requests to determine whether processing or geographical errors contributed to inaccurate Census housing counts. If the review leads to a corrected count of housing units, the Census Bureau will publish the revised counts on the CQR website and use the updated numbers in all subsequent population estimates.

The Decennial Census is used to determine congressional apportionment, as well as to distribute hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds to state and local governments. An analysis by the Institute of Public Policy at George Washington University found that Texas received more than $59 billion in federal dollars in 2016 from programs that rely on Census population data to distribute funds to local communities, businesses, nonprofits, and households.

Measures of the distribution and density of the state population can impact designations of metropolitan, rural, and urban areas in ways that impact federal funding formulas. The Texas State Comptroller’s Office notes that estimates of state per capita income (PCI) are used to determine federal reimbursement rates for Medicaid and other programs from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. The PCI estimate is sensitive to population counts such that an undercount could artificially inflate the PCI estimate and inaccurately reduce the size of the reimbursement that Texas may receive.

Reexamination of Census results is even more important this year because the 2020 Census was particularly challenging, due to the pandemic. Despite a 2020 Census count showing that Texas gained in population more than any other state in the nation, a 2021 independent study by the Urban Institute found that our state population may have been undercounted by 1.28 percent. They estimate that this undercount may cost Texas $247 million in Medicaid reimbursements alone.

The Census CQR program can assist governmental units within Texas with reviews of official counts of housing units in a way that may impact their federal funding. Only the top elected or appointed official in a governmental unit may submit a case for review. CQR will review two types of cases:

  • Boundary cases: A review of legal boundaries for a governmental unit as of January 1, 2020, and the associated housing units within those boundaries.
  • Count cases: A review of the geographic location or placement of housing units and the associated population as well as Census results.

Note that CQR is NOT a review of population counts, but of housing units. Publicly released 2020 population counts were processed with measures intended to protect individual privacy and avoid disclosure of individual information. As such, local population counts may seem inaccurate but will not be reviewed. However, a revision of housing counts may indirectly update underlying population counts. For example, the city of Cibolo, TX had its geographic boundaries reviewed after the 2010 Census, which resulted in a 4,000-person increase to their population counts. This revised count was included in all subsequent population estimates and for federal funding distribution.

Fortunately, the U.S. Census Bureau and Texas Demographic Center are available to local government officials for technical assistance. The Texas Demographic Center (TDC) is the office of the Texas State Demographer, which conducts population estimates and projections for state and local governments, businesses, and the public. TDC is available to local governments for guidance on technical questions or inquiries related to geographic mapping. It is offering a webinar on January 27, with US Census staff available to explain the process and answer questions. The Census Bureau can be directly contacted with questions on the CQR program at 1-888-369-3617 or email at dcmd.2020.cqr.submissions@census.gov.

Texas 2036 and the Texas Demographic Center view data as an important tool for planning for our future needs. State and local government officials now have a process to ensure that their Census data are as complete and accurate as possible.