Let’s make sure every New Jersey resident gets counted in the 2020 census 

January 3, 2019



The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation is excited to support the complete count of all New Jerseyans in the 2020 Census by aligning with philanthropic partners to fund a coordinated statewide effort to reach hard-to-count communities.  

Dodge made a $100,000 grant to the pooled Census fund at The Fund for New Jersey to support the statewide NJ Counts project to support outreach to hard-to-count African American, Asian, Latinx, and immigrant communities and partnersThis fund – aiming to fundraise $1 million — will provide grants to non-profit organizations to coordinate statewide census outreach, local and regional get-out-the count efforts, and census outreach trainings and workshops for trusted community partners. 

The Constitution requires that every 10 years, every person living in the United States must be counted. The information gathered in the census informs federal and state funding and programs, political representation, and provides detailed statistics important for industries, chambers of commerce, and communities. The 2020 Census will inform decisions for the next ten years. 

We believe that when every person in New Jersey is counted in Census 2020, everyone in New Jersey will benefit. 

New Jersey receives more than $22.7 billion – well over half the entire state budget — each year from federal programs that benefit our residents through Medicare, housing, roads, and schools funding based on census counts. The data collected in Census 2020 will determine the political representation and the public resources for New Jersey residents all the way through 2030. A mistake now has consequences for a decade. Poor data will lead to poor decisions, underrepresentation, and less money for New Jersey. An accurate count is important to all the people in New Jersey.  

New Jersey has three of the top 50 hardest to count Congressional districts of all districts nationwide. Some 22 percent of state residents live in hard-to-count census tracts; 40 percent of New Jerseyans are immigrants or children of immigrants, and 10 percent are non-citizens, according to federal data. 

Census officials have identified the following communities in New Jersey as hard-to-count: African American, Asian, Latinx, immigrant, and homeless communities, and children under 5. Municipalities with low mail-in rates for Census 2010 and are thus considered hard to count include Newark, Trenton, Paterson, and Camden. In contrast, wealthy white people are more likely to be double counted in the census.  

While we no longer need to worry about the citizenship question when asking households to fill out the census, a lot of damage has already been done. There is considerable fear and suspicion of government among the persistently undercounted. That fear has been increased and there is significant confusion to overcome for these communities. Stakeholders still need substantial investments to convince vulnerable households to be fully counted. 

Supporting a complete census count aligns with Dodge’s new vision for an equitable New Jersey – to partner with and support the nonprofit sector to be valued and effective influencers for community-level change in New Jersey, with a priority focus on elevating the voices and power of those communities that have been historically and systematically excluded from investment and opportunity.  

We believe efforts towards a complete count in New Jersey should be community-driven and responsive to the needs of the communities most affected, especially communities of color. Our goal is to fill gaps and direct funds where they are most needed. 

Dodge’s board approved the grant following a consensus staff process. The grant will come from the $200,000 we budgeted this year for new initiatives to further our diversity, inclusion, and equity work. We established this internal fund to further our learning, build relationships, and take some steps towards our new mission focus.