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Get Out the Count! The Importance of the Census for Our Communities

Editor’s Note 9/8/2020: The deadline to get counted in the Census is September 30, 2020! Click here to submit yours.

I don’t measure America by its achievement but by its potential.”

Shirley Chisholm

Art by: Kristin Reed

By The Laundromat Project, Arts & Democracy, and Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts, NY

Every 10 years, the constitution of the United States of America requires that every single person living in this country be counted, everyone. It is not merely a head count, it is the basis of our democracy and it informs and influences our lives. As a cultural community we can play a special role to make sure that the communities that we care about are counted in the 2020 census. 

Why is this important? The census determines how funding resources and political power are distributed across every corner of this country, including New York City. It helps determine how congressional seats are allotted to each state as well as how state and federal funds are distributed to health programs, social security benefits, mass transit, and schools, including arts education and after school programs. In short, the census affects our lives in more ways than we may realize. In order to do all of these things equitably, the census needs to be accurate.

Nevertheless, in 2010, the self-response rate in New York was 62%, while the national average was 76%. In some neighborhoods, self-response rates were as low as 35%. Typically, immigrants, people of color, small children, renters, low income people, the undocumented, and people who move around a lot have been hard to count. When we are undercounted, it means less funding and less representation for all of us for the next 10 years. This is why we need to make sure that every single New Yorker is counted for the 2020 census.

Our organizations work in all five boroughs and have authentic and sustained relationships with many community members that are “hard to count.” As artists and cultural organizations, we can make a positive difference by encouraging all of our community members to fill out the 2020 census and be counted. There are many ways you can easily get involved.

Census 2020 and Coronavirus

What can you do? 

Other Resources


  • #NYCCensus2020
  • #AmericaCounts
  • #2020Census 
  • #GetCountedNYC

This is the first piece in a series of original writings, videos, and interviews on the themes of mapping, understanding place, and celebrating the value of our localities. In this new time of public health and economic crisis, we hope that this series will help you feel connected to and in solidarity with your local community. Over the course of the next several weeks, the series will explore how both data and interpersonal relationships form the basis of how a place is understood, by those who live there and those who do not, and how art and creativity can impact that understanding. Follow the series on our blog.

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