• July 15, 2019

Permian Basin prepares for 2020 census - Odessa American: Government

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Permian Basin prepares for 2020 census

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Posted: Friday, May 10, 2019 11:28 am

The countdown for the 2020 census has begun and local leaders and professionals are brainstorming how to effectively execute the decennial headcount for the Permian Basin’s unique situation.

Cathy Lacy, director of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Denver regional office, said the census comes down to three things: knowledge, power and money.

The nation’s population statistics come from decennial censuses, which allow communities to better plan for the future using current facts and figures about America’s changing demographics. The next census will be on April 1.

Lacy said children under the age of five were underreported during the last census. She attributed that trend to complex housing units such as circumstances where divorced parents might assume the other person accounted for the child in their household’s headcount but neither parent did.

“Those children that were ages zero to five years old that were not reported could contribute to part of the reason that the schools, cities and counties were not able to plan for that population for the future,” Lacy said.

The results of the census also determine the number of seats for each state in the U.S. House of Representatives and are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.

Lacy said it is vital for residents to participate in the census count because underestimating the actual population could result in communities missing out on federal funds.

Her presentation at a 2020 census conference held Thursday at Odessa College stated that about $675 billion is distributed each year from the federal government based on population count. Texas currently receives about $59.4 billion annually in federal funding derived from data gathered during the 2010 census.

Midland Mayor Jerry Morales said the Permian Basin needs every federal dollar it can get to meet the increased housing, education, healthcare, quality of life and infrastructure needs of residents brought on by the oil and gas industry.

The most recent population projections from the Texas Demographic Center list both Ector County and Midland County as two of the top 10 areas in the state to have the fastest growth rates from 2010 to 2050. In the next 30 years, Ector County’s population is expected to reach about 494,413, a 261 percent increase from 2010, TDC data states.

“For this census we knew it would be one of the most challenging censuses we’ve ever had,” Lacy said.

The transient workforce in Midland-Odessa will be an area of focus for local census canvassers and require new approaches to ensure those individuals meeting residency requirements are included. Nontraditional housing situations are common for oil field workers that spend part of their time living in the Permian Basin and the other part somewhere else.

Census collection will incorporate timelines that focus on capturing those living in hotels or motels, RV parks, man camps and other transitory locations.

“We’re going to make sure that we work with the local communities and make sure we know all of those places where people live or people could live,” Lacy said. “With man camps, you’ve got a population that could be here three weeks out of the month or they could be here 50 percent of the time. Those (split down the middle) may not consider this to be their home and we can’t control what people tell us because it is a self-response.”

The conference allowed attendees to form small groups to discuss the specific challenges the 2020 census poses for the Permian Basin and possible strategies to improve data collection methods.

One small group emphasized that collaboration between local government entities and oil companies will need to be a focus early on for efficient coordination so that transient workers will understand which community they should claim and when census employees will be gathering surveys in that area.

The U.S. Census Bureau will also add two additional reporting options next year to reach even more of the population with greater ease.

Residents nationwide can fill out a survey over the phone or online prior to the census date with 13 language options available. Traditional methods like the mailed paper form and the in-person interview will continue to be offered.

“This is an opportunity to be a part of a once-in-a-decade operation,” Lacy said.

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