Government experts say that Texas is due to lose out on tens of billions of dollars in federal funding over the next ten years due to a census undercount.
The U.S. Census Bureau post-enumeration survey reported that the population of Texas was likely undercounted by about 548,000 people in 2020, or 1.92% of the population. According to the Texas-based economic consulting firm The Perryman Group, this will impact the state’s budget over the coming decade.
“From an economic perspective, the consequences are profound,” said Ray Perryman, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Perryman Group, in a report. “This shortfall will affect the variety of key federal funding mechanisms that are driven by population estimates.”
The U.S. Census is a constitutionally-mandated decennial survey of where every person in the United States lives, regardless of their citizenship status. Population numbers obtained by the census are used to distribute about $700 billion in annual federal funds across over 300 programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); subsidized school lunches; the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutritional program; the Head Start educational program for low-income children under the age of 5; student and housing loans; and infrastructure and transportation projects.
According to The Perryman Group analysis, the 2020 undercount is projected to cost the state of Texas $27.4 billion in direct budgetary shortfalls over ten years, and more than $128 billion indirectly over the same time period, including $58.9 billion for health, $4.4 billion for housing, $5.5 billion for food and nutrition programs, $3.7 billion for infrastructure, $53.8 billion for education and job training, and $2 billion for social programs.
The budget shortfalls, combined with projected population growth, are likely to strain social services networks, reduce productivity, efficiency, and health outcomes, as well as negatively impact state and municipal business tax revenue. Children, especially those living in poverty, are likely to experience the worst effects of reduced funding, as shortfalls in programs can have a dramatic impact on a crucial point in their lives.
While there is no mechanism to update decennial census data, Perryman hopes that the analysis will help shed light on how the census process can be improved, and why such advancements are necessary and urgent.