Jennifer Newcomer

Why An Accurate Census Count Matters

In January of 2020, the Census Bureau will begin sending letters and door knockers to every U.S household with the intention of counting all people living in the country. Not only will the count shape how political power and federal dollars are allocated nationally over the next decade, it will have an impact on how Colorado’s social sector understands and serves local communities.

But, according to the Center for Urban Research, more than 860,000 Coloradans live in hard-to-count Census tracts—and with the possibility of a citizenship question being added to the survey, there is an even greater risk of an incomplete count.

For more than 25 years, Shift has relied on accurate Census data to conduct research and analysis that helps our partners make data-informed decisions about metro Denver’s most persistent social and economic challenges. Below are examples of how Shift uses Census data, which show how crucial an accurate Census is to understanding communities—and supporting the well-being of residents—in our region and beyond.


We regularly use Census Public Use Micro Sample (PUMS) data to more deeply analyze the issues driving metro Denver’s affordable housing crisis. Currently, we are using PUMS to better understand the “doubling-up” phenomenon, where potentially unique households are living together because they are experiencing, or are at risk of experiencing, housing vulnerability. We look forward to releasing  this analysis in an upcoming report, but, without access to raw, accurate Census data, deep examination of economic self-sufficiency and housing like this wouldn’t be possible.

Our housing research has helped our partners, including The Piton Foundation, The Colorado Health Foundation and Housing Colorado, make more informed decisions around their housing investment and advocacy efforts. This work has also inspired the launch of the Innovation in Housing Roundtable, which convenes policy makers, advocates and housing experts to seek new solutions to address the region’s housing crisis.


Census data is the foundation of many datasets, including the American Community Survey (ACS) and Longitudinal Employer Household Dynamics (LEHD), which Shift relies on to provide insight into issues like workforce development, economic self-sufficiency, housing, education and neighborhood change.

WORKNOW, a workforce development initiative that provides low-income families with the construction job training and work supports they need to participate in enterprise economic development opportunities happening across the metro region. To support hiring of local residents and expand the pipeline of workers available to area contractors, WORKNOW leveraged LEHD data to better understand who is living in the communities near major infrastructure projects like the Central 70 expansion.


Shift’s Early Care and Education Map, which leverages Census data from Denver’s seven-county metro region to show where quality, licensed early childhood resources are located relative to where young children live, is used by the Colorado Children’s Campaign to support its advocacy efforts. Bill Jaeger, Vice President of Early Childhood and Policy Initiatives at the Campaign, said this about the value of using our data and research:

“Shift’s research into Colorado’s youngest children living in the region represents a first-in-the-state analysis of their needs and some of the resources available to address those needs. By combining population-level data with geographic context, Shift is prompting parents, advocates and policymakers to think differently about how we connect children with opportunities.”


There are a number of ways to get involved in the upcoming Census count—and now is the time to act.

  • If your organization works directly with Census data, check out NNIP’s resources around how to mobilize data-driven local outreach.
  • If you work in the social sector or with communities at risk of being undercounted, explore Together We Count’s resources for information on how you can advocate for and promote an accurate count.


Learn about Shift's Issue Areas

Shift provides insight into metro Denver’s most persistent social and economic issues.

Community Fact Enhancements

Check out the latest enhancements to Community Facts, our flagship data tool.

Exploring Colorado’s Housing Affordability Challenges

Learn more about the complex factors contributing to the region's housing crisis.

Sign up for our newsletter.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Let's Work Together

Shift partners with social change organizations that are interested in using data to better serve their communities.

Is your work focused on one of our issue areas? Let’s chat to see how we can help.


Data Driving
Social Change