An accurate count is needed as North Carolina’s population has grown and its demographics have changed significantly since the 2010 Census.

In less than two years our country will undertake the 2020 Federal Census, done every 10 years; however, significant funding and managerial challenges at the U.S. Census Bureau may keep an accurate count of our country’s population as required by our country’s Constitution out of reach. Last year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) designated the 2020 Census as one of a handful of federal programs at “High Risk” of failure. For almost a year, the Census Bureau has been operating without permanent leadership, and federal lawmakers have been underfunding the Census Bureau for several straight years.

An accurate headcount of the more than 300 million people in the United States is critical to ensure that each state has fair representation in Congress, that the allocation of billions of dollars in federal funds for various programs — from Medicare to food and housing assistance — is guided by the needs of the state’s population, and that local governments and businesses can have the best data to make good decisions.

A mismanaged and underfunded 2020 Census poses great risks for North Carolina as our population has grown and our demographics have changed significantly since the last Census in 2010. In an era when data-driven and evidence-based policymaking has gained momentum at the state level, the lack of effective implementation of one of the major data sources available to policymakers and practitioners will undermine not just research endeavors but programs and practices across the country.