Census Count Lags In NM As Time Is Cut Short

Aug 5, 2020

The census taken every ten years determines how much federal money goes to New Mexico programs for things like schools, small businesses, health care, food assistance and housing. The U.S. Census Bureau announced Monday that all counting, including door-to-door efforts, will end September 30th – a full month sooner than expected. The time crunch threatens efforts to get an accurate count in New Mexico, especially in hard-to-count areas including rural and tribal communities. 

The Census response deadline had been moved from July to October 31st to help ease the burden caused by COVID-19 restrictions. Now, Census employees have a month less to do their fieldwork, which includes delivering specially coded packets to homes that don’t have street addresses. 

Ahtza Dawn Chavez from the Native American Voters Alliance told the state legislature’s Indian Affairs Committee Tuesday that delivery still hasn’t happened in some tribal communities due to tribal leaders’ efforts to protect citizens from the coronavirus. "A lot of tribal leaders are still a little bit hesitant or unwilling to open their borders to allow this process to continue," Chavez said.


With nearly six weeks left to do door-to-door counting, Chavez told lawmakers only about 8 percent of New Mexico’s Native American population has been reached by telephone. She says an undercount of just 1 percent is estimated to cost Native communities about $43M in funding over ten years.

UNM’s Geospatial and Population Studies reported New Mexico could lose more than $600 million dollars per 1 percent undercount.

New Mexico has an overall response rate of 53% so far, below the national rate of 63% to date, according to the City University of New York’s Center for Urban Research census mapping project.


In 2010, 65% of New Mexicans responded to the census mail questionaire.