UIC partners with IDHS through $20M census initiative in Illinois

2020 Census

A decreased share of federal funding and fewer seats in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next decade are among the outcomes that can occur due to an undercount of residents in the 2020 census.

To help avoid negative consequences of an inaccurate final census count, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Human Services, or IDHS, announced a $20 million investment that will go to 30 local community and government organizations serving as regional intermediaries for coordinated census mobilization initiatives across the state.

Through an intergovernmental partnership with IDHS, the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs will have a leading role in these efforts aimed at ensuring all Illinois residents are counted in the 2020 census.

UIC’s census team, which features experts in racial equity analysis, program management and evaluation, data analysis and visualization, and community-driven participatory research, will focus on enhancing the real-time reporting, analysis and mapping of geographic coverage for the entire project.

Based on initial data collected, the UIC researchers will help the regional intermediaries and partners to target hard-to-count communities, both urban and rural, across the state. 

“This is a significant investment by the state in a racial equity-driven census program that will assure attention is given to communities that may need more engagement and outreach, which will produce an outcome that is good for all residents of our state,” said Kathleen Yang-Clayton, co-principal investigator on the project and UIC clinical assistant professor of public administration. “Our goal is to support IDHS and the intermediaries effectively and efficiently, while laying the groundwork for every Illinoisan to be counted, especially those from historically undercounted groups, such as minorities, rural residents, young children, and immigrants.”

The Urban Data Visualization Lab at UIC will support the analysis of hard-to-count populations, develop visualization tools for the regional intermediaries and partners, and co-create an online platform to help with reporting and analytical assessments to increase the impact of the state’s census efforts. This work will be led by Moira Zellner, UIC associate professor of urban planning and policy and director of lab, who is also a co-principal investigator for the project. She is joined by Ahoura Zandiatashbar, a geospatial data scientist at the lab and UIC adjunct assistant professor of urban planning and policy; Jaeyong Shin, a research assistant at the lab and doctoral candidate in urban planning and policy; Dean Massey, a visiting research specialist with UIC’s Institute for Environmental Science and Policy, and Anton Rozhkov, Ph.D. student in urban planning and policy.

Austin Zamudio, a recent graduate of the masters in public administration program at UIC, serves as project manager for the partnership.

The UIC team also plans to host training workshops for public service-minded students at UIC to become census ambassadors, who will help create awareness about the importance of participating within their immediate families and neighborhoods. Most student ambassadors will receive volunteer or course credit, but some may qualify for paid positions. More information about UIC Census Ambassadors is available online.

“By engaging students on campus, and empowering them to bring reliable information about the census back into their families and communities, we are demonstrating how diversity becomes a core strength of the impact we can have,” Yang-Clayton said.  

Once the 2020 census is officially launched April 1, the UIC team will shift to helping regional leaders and their partners to get residents to directly respond to the census through mail, phone and internet.

“We believe that our reputation in working with people from communities that are often hardest to count on issues that are directly affected by federal funds, including affordable housing, economic development, transportation and the environment, particularly the south and west sides of Chicago, will help all in their efforts toward a 100% count,” said Janet Smith, a project co-principal investigator and co-director of the Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement at UIC.

The $20 million program is funded through the Illinois state budget’s commitment of $29 million to census efforts. In June, Governor Pritzker signed an executive order that established a Census Office and a panel to guide the public outreach.

For more information about the 2020 census in Illinois and a listing of the regional intermediaries, visit census.illinois.gov.

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