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Demographic Data for Businesses and the Census

On Wednesday, August 31, Florida TaxWatch hosted a webinar “Demographic Data for Businesses & the Census” to discuss Florida’s population undercount in the 2020 Census, the impact this has on the business community, and efforts to secure more accurate data. During our webinar, we were joined by Mary Jo Hoeksema, Co-director of the Census Project; Dr. Karthick Ramakrishnan, Founder and Director of Census Legacies; Susan Racher, Vice President and CFO of Wallace H. Coulter Foundation; and Ashley Dietz, President and CEO of Florida Philanthropic Network.

Florida’s Essential Data

Since statehood, Florida’s population has doubled in size every 20-30 years – currently welcoming about 900 new residents a day. The 2020 Census indicated that Florida’s current population is a bit more than 21.5 million and the population is estimated to grow by 2.8 million by the year 2030. This data is crucial for businesses, policymakers, and community planner who rely on the information to prepare for the future, so what happens if the data is wrong?

The U.S. Census Bureau’s Post-Enumeration Survey discovered that Florida was one of only six states with a statistically significant Census undercount, missing an estimated 3.48 percent of its population. This equates to 750,000 residents, a number larger than most Florida counties.

Florida’s Census Undercount: Why does it matter?

An undercount is nothing new to Florida, but its current persistence inflicts costs more formidable than previous years. In 2000, an undercount of 200,670 people lost Florida a total $4 billion of federal funds by the end of the decade. Many of these federal funds are used for projects that support business operations, such as transportation improvements and workforce development programs. Now, a larger undercount paired with larger federal spending allocations sets Florida to incur even greater losses. Throughout the decade, Floridians can expect to lose between $11 billion and $21 billion.

An undercount also affects the state’s understanding of Florida’s workforce and taxpayers. Census data is applied to the American Community Survey (ACS)—a monthly survey that collects economic, social, and demographic characteristics—in order to establish yearly estimates that help describe the state’s residents. Together, the data sources have the power to share key insights, ranging from which areas need broadband access to which counties experience the longest commutes to work. Such data enhance marketing intelligence and community decision-making. No private source can substitute for this extensive data collection.

Why does Florida’s business community value population data?

The ACS provides corporations, small businesses, and individuals detailed socioeconomic, housing, and demographic data. This data enables businesses to gauge the sales potential of products and services; better understand the workforce; identify and select sites for factories, stores, offices, and warehouses; and set strategies for growth and investment. Connecting with individuals across economic sectors, Florida TaxWatch collected and shared examples of how Florida businesses rely upon population data.

“People are moving to Florida and having data as to where they are moving to is vital for proactive transportation infrastructure planning.” –Ananth Prasad, Florida Transportation Builders Association, Inc.

“It would be impossible to accurately monitor Florida’s housing market without data from the U.S. Census Bureau. From statistics on population growth, income, and migration to its estimates of homeownership rates and building permits, census data is an absolutely vital source of information for us and our Realtor members.”  -Florida Realtors

“Whitman Family Development, LLC, is a family-owned, diversified real estate development, management, and leasing company specializing in retail and headquartered in Miami Beach, Florida. Population data is used to assess the needs of our businesses and appeal to our customer base.”
 –Whitman Family Development, LLC

“As a large public health system, Lee Health utilizes demographic and census data every single day. The amount of money states get for programs like Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicare, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is impacted by the US Census. Demographic data is used to determine if building new programs, facilities, or services is necessary & prudent. Prices in healthcare are set by government payers and costs are often fixed based on regulatory requirements. The result of these market pressures is that we must have exceedingly clear data in order to operate a large healthcare delivery system that employs 15,000 individuals and treats nearly 2 million patient contacts each year.”  -Michael Nachef, Lee Health

“GrantWorks helps local governments access and utilize federal and state funds to support development as well as disaster recovery, mitigation, and resilience. Many funds, such as the Community Development Grants, depend upon a complete Census count to ensure localities receive their fair share of allocated dollars. Population data also allows us to make data-informed decisions based upon the conditions and needs of residents.”  -GrantWorks

What actions need to be taken to improve the Census Bureau’s yearly data estimates?

While continued support for the decennial Census is necessary, providing attention to the yearly ACS survey can enhance data collection in the present. Panelists and respondents shared the following ideas for supporting the ACS:

  • Increase the sample size;
  • Add new questions;
  • Develop new data products;
  • Inform policymakers about the value, uses, and challenges of the ACS;
  • Secure additional resources to enhance the ACS and its nonresponse follow-up operations; and
  • Create greater name recognition for the ACS.

What actions are being taken to ensure quality data access for Florida’s business community?

Florida TaxWatch has launched the Florida Census Institute to support the success of the upcoming decennial Census and ACS surveys. The Florida Census Institute is a source of insightful research, such as Looking Back at Census 2020: What Florida’s Business and Community Leaders Need to Know and The Economic and Fiscal Significance of the U.S. Census and American Community Survey, and will equip Floridians with opportunities to learn about the impact of quality data within their communities through local data presentations and its online, self-guided learning tool https://FloridaTaxWatch.org/Programs/Census-Institute. Partnering with the Florida Philanthropic Network, Florida TaxWatch will continue to conduct outreach to secure accurate and complete data collection for our state.

 

If you would like a local data presentation or have suggestions for topics we should highlight in future webinars, contact Tony Carvajal at TCarvajal@FloridaTaxWatch.org.

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