Census 2020: It's Time to #MakeBrooklynCount

The decennial census is critical to our democracy. Census data inform the allocation of federal funds, the apportionment of elected representatives, and the redistricting of state and federal election districts. When the data are inaccurate and biased in favor of certain demographics, undercounted communities lose out on crucial investments in their schools, public transit, healthcare, and much more.

Brooklyn is the hardest to count county in all of New York State, with over 80% of Brooklynites living in a hard-to-count neighborhood. In the 2010 Census, 33% of Brooklyn households did not mail back their census forms—the lowest mail return rate in the country among counties that have populations greater than 500,000.

To ensure that Brooklyn communities receive their fair share of resources—including $800 billion in federal and state grants allocated each year based on census data—Brooklyn Community Foundation is supporting local and statewide campaigns dedicated to overcoming complete count challenges.


We have partnered with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams to launch the Brooklyn Complete Count Committee and the #MakeBrooklynCount campaign. These efforts will expand upon the $100,000 we committed toward Census 2020 organizing: $40,000 to the New York Immigration Coalition in support of the New York Counts 2020 statewide coalition, $40,000 to the Center for Law and Social Justice in support of their NYC Black Leadership Action Coalition for Census 2020 (NYC BLAC), and $20,000 to the New York State Census Equity Fund to bolster statewide efforts.


For the first time since 1950, the government plans to include a citizenship question on the census survey. There is bipartisan criticism of this addition, with critics noting that not only does it add a financial burden to an already underfunded and ill-prepared agency, it jeopardizes the accuracy of the data by discouraging non-citizens and households with non-citizens from filling out the form. An estimated 400,000 Brooklynites—15% of our borough’s total population—are not citizens. In July 2018, we sent a letter to the Department of Commerce, which oversees the Census Bureau, urging them to withdraw the citizenship question, and we will continue to support efforts to remove it.

Census 2020 will also be the first time the Census Bureau captures survey responses online. More than a third of New Yorkers do not have broadband at home, so promoting internet accessibility for low-income residents, the elderly, and people with disabilities is imperative. Through partnerships with institutions such as local libraries and the YMCA, we hope to cross the digital divide by creating accessible and secure spaces for those without internet.


Two-thirds of Brooklyn residents are renters, a category that has a traditionally low response rate. Further, renters are more likely to be low-income and Black or Latinx, skewing the data in favor of higher income white residents—a demographic that has historically been over counted.

Children under 5 and seniors are also two groups that are often undercounted. Brooklyn has the largest population of children under five in New York City. Brooklyn also has the largest senior population in New York City, with over 40% of the city’s senior-headed households relying on government assistance for more than half their income.


Every person deserves to be counted, and to accomplish this requires collaborative action. According to research conducted by the Fiscal Policy Institute, New York State needs to invest $40 million in community-based Census 2020 efforts to secure its $73 billion share of federal funding. The Fiscal Policy Institute’s proposed funding for Brooklyn is $7.2 million—the highest out of all New York counties. This amount is more than three times the amount New York State committed statewide to community-based organizing for the 2010 Census.

Further, in a January 2019 Quinnipiac poll more than 50% of Brooklynites said that hearing from a local nonprofit organization that works in their community would make a difference in whether or not they choose to participate in the Census--a higher response than newspapers, social media, or even religious leaders as drivers of Census participation. And perhaps most critically, younger residents (18-34) — a group that tends to be the least likely to complete the Census survey — indicated the greatest trust in nonprofits as Census messengers.

Read our New York Daily News op-ed on Census Funding

We partnered with advocates from the New York Counts 2020 campaign to call on New York State’s elected officials to include a $40 million funding commitment for Census 2020 in the 2019 budget and ensure resources are directed to nonprofits on the frontlines in our communities. On March 31st, Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers reached a budget deal that included $20 million for Census outreach. Read our statement here.


If your organization is interested in being a part of the Brooklyn Complete Count Committee and #MakeBrooklynCount campaign, sign up here.

To learn more about how you can help fund our work to #MakeBrooklynCount, contact Jenny Walski, Director of Donor Engagement, at jwalski@bcfny.org 718-480-7500.


Recent News