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Census Spotlight

Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community

In preparation for the 2020 Census, the Weekly is featuring an organization doing work around the census and ways to get involved in each issue. This is the first in the series.

The 2020 Census kicks off for most Chicagoans on April 1, but state, county, and city groups have been raising awareness about the importance of participation for some time, anxious to avoid an undercount that could result in a projected loss of $1.2 billion in federal funding over the next decade. Areas with large populations of foreign-born residents, multi-family households, and “linguistically isolated” households are among those particularly at risk of being undercounted. “Traditionally Asian Americans have been undercounted because of these reasons,” said Grace Chan McKibben, executive director of the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community (CBCAC), an advocacy organization based in Chinatown. 

Within the greater Chinatown area—which includes not just Chinatown, but Bridgeport, McKinley Park, and sections of nearby Bronzeville and Pilsen—CBCAC has focused its canvassing efforts on fourteen census tracts that are at risk of being undercounted, with plans to knock on every single door within those tracts between now and April 30, in the hope of reaching an estimated 56,000 people.

So far, a team of ten core volunteers have chipped in, working in pairs to go door-to-door and take residents through the basics: the importance of the census, that it’s for everyone regardless of citizenship or legal status, that all information collected is kept confidential, and help is available to fill out forms. Volunteers are given training beforehand, so prior experience is not necessary, although fluency in one of the Cantonese, Mandarin, Fu Zhou, or Taishanese dialects spoken around Chinatown is highly sought after. CBCAC offers other ways to volunteer with census outreach as well, such as phone banking, making flyers, data entry, and writing translations. “Door knocking is not everyone’s cup of tea,” said Chan McKibben, referring to the time commitment (it can take two canvassers two hours to cover a city block). “If people are interested, they can help at every level.”

To volunteer, email info@cbcacchicago.org.

The Weekly’s coverage of the 2020 Census is supported by a reporting grant from the McCormick Foundation, administered by the Chicago Independent Media Alliance.

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Tammy Xu is a contributing editor to the Weekly. She last coordinated coverage of Chinatown and Roseland & Pullman for the 2019 Best of the South Side issue.

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