Village, college could lose funding, representation due to potential undercounted census report

An independent report identified the Village of Geneseo, including the college campus, as an area that may be underreported in the 2020 census. Underrepresentation could decrease funding and representation for the Village at a state and national level. 

The CUNY Center for Urban Research Mapping Service analyzes tracts of land across the country based on how accurately their populations are reported in the census. The report, entitled Mapping Hard to Count Communities for a Fair and Accurate 2020 Census, labels the tract that includes Geneseo as “one of the hardest [areas] to count in the country.” The area could face negative repercussions if the population is underreported, according to Mayor of the Village of Geneseo Richard Hatheway. 

“Everything we get is based off of per capita population and if we’re underreported on the per capita we could essentially lose money,” Hatheway said. “The next step, which is even broader, could also be losing representation in Congress. If we lose our representation in Congress, that’s a serious step, but the funding aspect is pretty important too.” 

The study revolved around statistics from the most recent census in 2010. Only two-thirds of residents originally responded in that census, requiring census officials to personally canvas the last third of residents, according to the report. Due to the planned use of the Internet for the next census, the Mapping Service also determines whether the households in the area meet Federal Communication Commission standards for Internet connectivity. None of the households in the tract that includes Geneseo met that minimum recommendation of 200 kilobytes per second for uploads and downloads.  

Beyond Geneseo, there are other local areas that the analysts predict will be underreported, including the Tonawanda Band of Seneca Indian Reservation and Batavia’s fifth ward in Genesee County. All three of these areas are unique in the region due to the relatively higher populations of historically marginalized people, according to Village Board Trustee Mary Rutigliano. 

“I think it’s important to note that in these three areas ... there are populations that have been historically disenfranchised,” Rutigliano said. “I think it’s important to notice that and see the role that it plays. The people in charge need to be looking into what factors cause lower response rates and possibly taking measures to support those populations so that they can have a voice.” 

The college administration played a major role in encouraging on-campus students to provide their information for the census, according to Dean of Academic Planning and Advising and professor of English Celia Easton. Easton, who was the dean of residential living during the 2010 Census, estimated that as many as 90 percent of on-campus students had participated in the census process. Off-campus students received less outreach from the administration since they are foremost considered residents of the Village, according to Dean of Students and Director of the Center for Community Leonard Sancilio.    

Although the census will not be administered for another two years, Easton believes that the college should examine how to prepare for the near future. 

“I think that this is such a great thing to talk about now because people should start strategizing now for students to be counted in 2020,” Easton said. “We should get rolling and think about how we can get this to be a good showing again. We don’t want to live up to somebody’s bad forecasting.”u