How the Coronavirus Has Stymied Census Outreach Efforts in Chinatown


The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing shutdown of much of Chicago is also impacting outreach efforts for the 2020 census count.

Census forms have already been sent out to millions of Americans, who are encouraged to fill out their questionnaires online. 

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But the coronavirus has caused census advocacy groups across Chicago to halt their in-person outreach efforts in so-called hard-to-count communities, which typically include the elderly or non-English speakers. 

“Even just a few days ago, right before the stay-at-home order came about, we were thinking about printing more flyers and just dropping [them] off at grocery stores and other locations,” said Grace Chan McKibben, executive director of the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community. “And now, of course, the print shop that we normally work with is closed because it’s not an essential service.” 

McKibben says her group is trying to adapt to the situation with new ideas, like expanding their presence on WeChat, a Chinese social media platform. But she’s concerned the lack of in-person outreach — such as workshops and door-knocking — will lead to a census undercount in Chicago’s greater Chinatown area. 

“We were really relying on a lot of these less formal mechanisms where people talk to each, and people have personal relationships in order to get the word out about the census, and pretty much most of those channels are not available,” McKibben said. “So we’re quite, quite worried about the undercount, under the circumstance.” 


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