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AP finds census counts of Latino, Black communities below estimates

A sign advertising a new elementary school stands along a main street in Somerton, Ariz., Aug. 19, 2021. The overwhelmingly Hispanic community has grown enough over the last decade that it’s building a new elementary school, and the city manager cited 853 new homes over the past decade as evidence of growth. But the Census Bureau says Somerton actually lost 90 residents during the that time, putting its official population at 14,197 people, not the 20,000 that the mayor expected. (AP Photo / Jae C. Hong)

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Keeping the AP in the forefront of 2020 census coverage, Astrid Galvan of the Race and Ethnicity Team and census reporter Mike Schneider joined forces to explore the crucial undercount question for the first in-depth national story on the subject since demographic data was released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Aug. 12.

By comparing the new numbers to earlier estimates, Schneider revealed a pattern in which the numbers consistently came in below what had been projected for both Hispanic and Black populations, suggesting that some areas were overlooked. The official numbers have implications for the distribution of federal funds and congressional representation.

Phoenix-based Galvan uncovered Somerton, Arizona, a Latino community building new schools and taking other steps to accommodate its growing population — although the official census numbers showed 90 fewer people than a decade earlier. In a vivid example of show-don’t-tell reporting, Galvan teamed up with Los Angeles photographer Jae Hong and videographer Eugene Garcia to convey the texture of the community, capturing voices of outrage and disbelief among local officials that their population numbers were so low.

Schneider,meanwhile,worked with graphic artist Francois Duckett to put together national maps showing that the biggest shortfalls among Latino people came in the Southwest,while the count of Black individuals fared worst in the South. The highly visual presentation complemented the data, helping AP once again set the pace for national coverage of the 2020 headcount.

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