Kern County’s demographic characteristics pose challenges in the 2020 Census, research shows

June 28, 2019 /

California’s rural and suburban communities will be at the highest risk for being undercounted in the 2020 Census, research shows.

California’s demographic characteristics — high rates of immigrants, large households and high incidence of complex households — will pose challenges in ensuring an accurate count, according to UC Merced Associate Sociology Professor Edward Orozco Flores.

“Many groups in California have been undercounted,” Orozco Flores said Friday at community convening. “Outreach efforts must target (these populations) and raise awareness.”

Orozco Flores shared his research among Kern County mayors, representatives and community stakeholders at a census convening.

Kern County’s average household size is larger than the state and national average, according to Orozco Flores’ research, while southeast Bakersfield had among the state’s largest households.

Kern County also has a high rate of complex households — 11 per 100, nearly twice the national average, Orozco Flores said.

Half of all California’s complex households are headed by an immigrant, and an overwhelming majority of immigrant heads of these households speak Spanish.

Orozco Flores said the best way to get the hard-to-count communities enumerated is to use local media and trusted community leaders.

“This is a humanitarian issue, not about politics,” said McFarland Mayor Manual Cantu. “What we want to do is make sure we serve every person we can, especially the little ones who don’t have a voice yet.”

Yvette Flores, a Cal State Bakersfield student working on the Kern County Voter Engagement Project, said educating the youth is key in the process. She said students of all ages in immigrant households often act as the translators in their families. This is why the project is currently working on educating students across Kern about the census.

“By educating out young people, we are not only educating them for the future, we are educating them to be the educator of their parents,” Flores said.

Community members stoke of actions the Trump administration has taken to try to add a Citizenship question to the census form. The decision was blocked — for now — Thursday by the Supreme Court.

“It is concerning our administration is using something to skew and prevent us from getting our fair share,” said Jose Gurrola, the Mayor of Arvin. “The (census) numbers help us get our fair share in terms of road money, water quality, air quality and all the issues we want to improve in our community.”

Gurrola, along with many other in the meeting, said despite the Supreme Court’s decision, the administration has already instilled fear in immigrant communities when it comes to the census.

“The biggest challenge we have is fear,” said Lupe Martinez from the Center on Race, Poverty and Environment. “We nee to make sure that we ourselves don’t promote fear. We have to make sure we start promoting positivity.”

Sandra Hernandez, a member of the Tejon Indian Tribe, said her tribe is also facing fear.

“I can speak for our own tribe in understanding historically when numbers were gathered, it was to eradicate us,” she said.

Hernandez said she is plans to educate her tribe on the importance of the population count.

Neel Sannappa with the Kern County Voter Engagement Project said, “The (administration) wants to represent our communities less, and we have to come back and fight and say, ‘No.'”

South Kern Sol is a youth-led journalism organization in Kern County. In their stories, youth reporters shine light on health and racial disparities in under-served communities across Kern. For more stories by South Kern Sol, head to southkernsol.org.

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Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez is the program associate for South Kern Sol. She can be reached at elizabeth@southkernsol.org.