HomeAsian AmericansCensus Bureau Cuts Back Asian Language Outreach for 2020 Census
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Census Bureau Cuts Back Asian Language Outreach for 2020 Census

The U.S. Census Bureau has dropped a majority of Asian languages in its 2020 census ad campaign.

The LAist reported that the Census Bureau has dropped “eight of the 14 Asian languages it used for advertising in its 2010 campaign, including those spoken by Cambodians, Thai, Pakistanis and Laotians.” The campaign includes digital, TV, and radio ads, along with billboards and print, according to The New York Times.

The Census Bureau noted in its 2016 report that Asians are one of the hardest groups to count. Sixty percent of Asians are foreign-born. Asian immigrants may not fill out the census because they distrust government workers, are not familiar with the census and struggle with language barriers.

In early January, the Census Bureau launched a $500 million media and education-outreach campaign, called “Shape your future. Start here.” Its goal is to encourage undercounted groups to participate in the census. The campaign has funded more than 1,000 ads that will run in January and June.

The majority of ads are for TV, while another 30%, are for digital and social media. The shift towards digital media advertising refects the current media landscape Kendall Johnson, a Census Bureau communications official, told The New York Times.

TDW+Co, the Census Bureau’s official Asian American outreach and communications partner, created ads in languages such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese, to reach the “historically undercounted,” according to NBC News.

The ads did not feature eight Asian languages previously included in the 2010 Census ad campaign. A Census Bureau official contacted by LAist said costs were the factor in the cuts.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus member An Le worries about non-English speakers, particularly in California may fall through the cracks.

The 2020 census questions are limited to these Asian languages: Chinese, Japanese, Tagalog, Korean, and Vietnamese. Those who do not complete the online survey will be visited by census enumerators with paper forms, which only have an English or Spanish language option, LAist said.

Advocates are also concerned about the online survey option. Asian immigrants may not have access to the internet or may have trouble using it, Le said.

The Census Bureau’s report acknowledged that “certain segments,” mainly the older immigrant population, may have a harder time accessing the online survey. However, it stated that “Asian Americans have decent access to broadband internet access.”

Fear may also prevent Asian Americans from filling out the census. The controversial citizenship question, as well as the current anti-immigrant climate, discourage participation.

“The landscape out there is completely different. Mistrust in government is much higher and so is the desire not to complete surveys,” Johnson said.

Filling out the census will begin in mid-March, and non-respondents will be visited by Census takers in May and June, the Census Bureau website says.

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