Children a main focus for 2020 Census

Heidi Ponagai via Creative Commons

By Sayre Key-Towne / NM News Port


With the 2020 Census approaching, New Mexico is putting more money into efforts to better count the entire population of the state – especially children, who have been known to be undercounted. 

The 2010 census had New Mexico ranked dead last when it came to response rates, according to state demographer Robert Rhatigan. 

Amber Wallin, Deputy Director of the Voices for Children, a child advocacy group, said the 2010 Census failed to count over 4,000 children in the state. As a result, she said, there have been five children’s programs in New Mexico that lost $4 million in the past five years. 

“Considering that education, as well as state funding for children’s programs, are already in need of greater support, four million dollars is quite significant,” Wallin said. 

According to Wallin, there were many geographic and socioeconomic factors that played into the undercounting of children in the state. 

“We as a state are very spread out as it is,” Wallin said. “Geographically we are at a disadvantage, and the amount of low-income households in a small state account for a lot of the under-representation.” 

Wallin and her organization argued in favor of more state spending to help the census count every child accurately in 2020. She was glad to see the state legislature and Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham support that funding.

“We as a state are facing more problems than ever, it seems, but recent events have given us a jumpstart on the upcoming census,” Wallin said.

On February 10th, Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill appropriating $8 million to expand 2020 Census outreach. According to Wallin, this bill would allow for greater representation of lower-income areas – such as Native American Reservations, rural towns and other less-affluent areas. Those areas will have a greater presence of interviewers. 

“Putting more people to work in the census will help to fill the gaps,” Wallin said.  

A press release was posted on the official governor’s site on February 10th that entailed an $8 million effort to better count the population of New Mexico. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham spoke on the 2020 Census. 

“We all have to pull together on the Census,” Gov. Lujan Grisham (MLG) said.  “The stakes are enormous. This funding will help ensure New Mexico receives every dollar to which we are entitled — for health care, for food assistance, for roads in communities across the state and so much more,” Grisham said. 

New Mexico is considered one of the hardest-to-count states in the nation largely because of its minority communities, language diversity and hard-to-reach rural areas. In addition to the response rates in 2010, the state had one of the worst response rates in the country in 2000.

New Mexico currently receives at least $7.8 billion annually through 55 federal programs that are guided by census data. According to the Governor’s office, these programs include Medicaid ($4.3 billion), SNAP ($690 million), and education programs like federal student loans ($280 million), Pell grants ($171 million), and Head Start ($83 million). 


Sayre Key-Towne is a reporter for the New Mexico News Port. He can be contacted at