2020 census shortfall may have cost Florida billions, multiple congressional seats

by | Jan 23, 2024

Florida’s undercount in the 2020 census, estimated at 750,000 people, likely cost the state congressional representation and approximately $21 billion in federal funding, affecting sectors like agriculture.

Florida’s undercount in the 2020 census may have cost the state at least one, possibly two, seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and up to $21 billion in federal funding, according to a new report by Florida TaxWatch.

The nonpartisan government watchdog group’s analysis found that an estimated 750,000 Floridians, or 3.48 percent of the state’s population, were not counted in the last census. This marked the state’s most significant census undercount in recent decades, despite efforts to improve participation rates between 2010 and 2020.

“About 320 federal programs have census-derived federal funding. These programs affect nearly every aspect of a taxpayer’s life, including job training, transportation, housing, and economic development,” reads the report. “Florida’s statistically significant census undercount costs the state about $2.1 billion per year.”

Florida’s agricultural sector was specifically identified in the report, as one-third of the state’s farms are located in rural counties, which are more susceptible to undercounts. The report notes that in Fiscal Year 2022, Florida received $211 million from 22 census-derived financial assistance programs for rural areas, but also that the state’s farmers may be missing out on millions in federal aid.

“Florida’s agricultural industry is impacted by a loss of federal funding and data limitations as a result of a census undercount,” the organization wrote.

The undercount also presents challenges in data accuracy for demographic estimates and market opportunities, further impacting strategic planning for businesses and policymakers.

“Securing the state’s fair amount of federal, census-derived funding and ensuring access to the best data bring Florida and its businesses closer to an even stronger economy,” the report states.

To mitigate further undercounts and subsequent losses in federal funding, Florida TaxWatch calls for heightened attention and preparatory measures for the 2030 census. It urges stakeholders, including agricultural businesses and community leaders, to stay informed on census issues, promote census survey completion, and invest in community efforts to support a more accurate count.


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