Yale and New Haven officials are encouraging students to fill out the 2020 census as the Oct. 5 deadline fast approaches. 

According to the city’s Assistant Director of Comprehensive Planning Keith Lawrence, if residents do not send in their response by the deadline, the city could potentially lose hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding. Each New Haven resident that does not fill out the census costs the city $2,900 a year, Lawrence said. 

The U.S. Census is conducted every ten years to count the country’s population. People living inside the U.S. have been instructed to fill out the census based on where they would have lived in April 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread confusion among Yale students and city residents in regards to how to complete the census.

“The pandemic threw a large wrench into all the census efforts,” said Associate Vice President of Student Life Burgwell Howard.

As of Sept. 21, 54.3 percent of New Haven citizens have responded to the census, according to Lawrence. New Haven’s response rate is significantly below that of Connecticut as a whole, which reported 70.1 percent on Sept. 21.

All students who were in New Haven in April 2020 –– and those who would have been in the city if not for the University’s shutdown in March –– should fill out the census indicating they are living in New Haven.

The University has provided a count of students who were living on campus in the 2020 spring semester to the Census Bureau. However, Yale could not include the information for students who lived off-campus in their spring census count, nor could it provide more specific personal information –– such as racial identities –– that the census is also intended to collect.

“There’s a lot that rides on the data that the census generates,” Lawrence said. “Funding for everything from schools and infrastructure to the business community relies on it. And the census is as important as ever, because we need to get accurate data to ensure that we get our fair share of federal federal funding for health programs.”

Howard said that this information is crucial in multiple ways –– for example, it is used to inform facilities around the country on the types of language translation services they need to provide for individuals living in the area. According to Howard, the data could also be used for businesses to better serve their surrounding communities.

International students and non-U.S. citizens are also required to fill out the census if they were living in New Haven during the spring. If students do not have access to steady internet connection, they can call the Census Bureau instead of filling out the form online. 

“The census isn’t like voting –– it counts anyone living in the United States, citizen or otherwise,” said Alex Halberstam ‘22, the Campus Engagement Coordinator for Yale Votes. “On campus, this means that international students or others who aren’t citizens for different reasons –– people who usually don’t need to pay close attention to conversations about civic engagement –– still need to fill out the census.”

However, current first-years should now fill out the census indicating wherever they were living as of April 1, 2020. According to Jonathan Schwartz ‘21, students should not worry about overcounting themselves in the census –– the census takes measures to make sure duplicate forms are accounted for. 

“Overcounting is not so much of a problem so we encourage people that they at least filled out the census in some way,” said Schwartz. “The problem is when people are stifled by this confusion and don’t fill out [the census], and then we can have a massive undercount problem.” 

Halberstam also stressed the importance of students filling out the Census in light of New Haven’s thinly stretched budget. 

Lawrence, the city’s assistant director of comprehensive planning, said that the New Haven Complete Counts Committee is focused on reaching out to typically undercounted communities in the city. According to their website, Complete Counts Committee is a statewide advisory panel of community leaders representing diverse populations across the state, with multiple local committees across Connecticut, including one in New Haven. 

Lawrence told the News that the Complete Counts Committee launched mobile caravans with DJs and music that travelled to undercounted neighborhoods to broadcast the census message. The committee has also launched a phone banking campaign to reach other city residents who haven’t yet completed the census. 

Yale students can fill out the census at my2020census.gov.

Owen Tucker-Smith | owen.tucker-smith@yale.edu

Alvaro Perpuly | alvaro.perpuly@yale.edu

Owen Tucker-Smith covers the Mayor's office, City Hall and local politics. He is also an associate editor at the Yale Daily News Magazine. Originally from Williamstown, MA, he is a first-year in Ezra Stiles College majoring in statistics and data science.
Alvaro Perpuly covers Connecticut State Politics and local politics. He is currently a Sophomore in Branford College studying political science and history.