Census Resources for West Michigan Communities

An estimated 290,000 West Michigan individuals are unlikely to self-respond to the 2020 Census

The Be Counted West Michigan campaign is designed to help local governments reach those residents most at-risk for not responding to this year’s census and promote participation. The campaign is organized by the West Michigan Research Network, a group of data professionals who regularly use census data in their work and understand the importance of an accurate count. Be Counted West Michigan is a part of their data advocacy efforts in the region.

Why Be Counted West Michigan?

Based on historical trends and a 2018 Census Bureau study, the 2020 Census is at risk for a significant undercount. Challenges impacting response rates include moving to an online survey for the first time; privacy and citizenship concerns; trouble filling the large number of temporary, census job openings; increased apathy; decreased trust and a general lack of understanding about the census.

What’s at Stake?

The 2020 Census will play a key role in determining factors that will directly affect West Michigan communities for the next decade. These include:

  • Providing reliable data to inform research, decision making and planning
  • Ensuring fair political representation at all levels of government
  • Determining allocation for 132 financial assistance programs that benefit West Michigan’s communities, such as Medicaid, highway construction, workforce/economic development, Head Start/Early Head Start, K-12 education and many more

It is estimated that Michigan stands to lose an average of $1,800 per person, per year in federal program funding that uses census data to determine allocation. Additionally, Michigan risks losing a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and an Electoral College vote due to an undercount.

Next Steps?

Individuals interested in learning more can visit the campaign website at BeCountedWestMI.org. The site provides a central hub of relevant, region-specific information for the 13 counties in West Michigan (Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Osceola and Ottawa Counties). Resources include county-specific toolkits and fact sheets, as well as an interactive dashboard that features low response heat maps and demographic data.

The Be Counted West Michigan campaign is funded by a grant from the West Michigan Regional Prosperity Alliance–one of 10 economic regions identified by former Governor Rick Snyder to create vibrant regional economies. The Prosperity Alliance serves the 13-county West Michigan region. Citizen Labs, a nonprofit organization that supports open data and open source software projects focused on community, technology and empowerment, is providing fiduciary oversight for the campaign.