On April 1, the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation (FCCP) joined 29 national, regional, state, and community-based philanthropic institutions on an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court in Department of Commerce v. New York. The case will decide whether or not the untested citizenship question may appear on the 2020 Census questionnaire. Two Federal judges previously barred the question.  

“Our members fight for the census because the census helps us fight for equity, representation, resources, and justice,” said FCCP Co-Chair Steven Cole-Schwartz. “We work alongside communities to ensure that people’s voices and families are seen, heard, and valued. Philanthropic institutions depend on accurate use census data to set priorities and to effectively target giving to make a difference in the lives of people, communities, and our democracy.”

The argument focuses on the importance of accurate census data to philanthropic institutions and their grantees and partners to effectively set priorities, conduct research, target investments, and monitor how to best address emerging needs. The brief underscores that available analyses–including from the Census Bureau–suggest the question will negatively impact self-response rates, noting: “The addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 Census is virtually certain to result in a sizable additional undercount of populations that have been traditionally hard to count in past censuses, including young children, immigrants, low-income families, communities of color, and people living in rural areas.”

Last summer, 304 foundations and 33 philanthropy-serving organizations called on the Commerce Department–through the regulatory  public comment period–to withdraw the question. 

The brief from philanthropy is one of more than 40 briefs filed. A significant majority request the Court to side with the plaintiffs to remove the citizenship question from the 2020 Census, including briefs from former Census Bureau directors, current and former (bipartisan) Members of Congress, former Federal District Judges, businesses and business organizations, the American Statistical Association, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights with the Brennan Center for Justice and 176 civil society groups.

Oral arguments are set for April 23. A decision is expected from the Court at the end of June, the deadline by which the Census Bureau has said it needs to go to print on more than one billion pieces of 2020 Census collateral.


National signers:

Annie E. Casey Foundation
The Bauman Foundation
Ford Foundation
Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation
Funders Together to End Homelessness
Kresge Foundation
Lumina Foundation
United Philanthropy Forum
W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Regional signers:
Joyce Foundation
Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation
Philanthropy Northwest

Statewide signers:
The California Endowment
Colorado Health Foundation
The Fund for New Jersey
Minnesota Council on Foundation
New Mexico Association of Grantmakers
The New York Community Trust
Philanthropy California
Philanthropy New York
Philanthropy Ohio
The Piton Foundation
Sapelo Foundation
Thornburg Foundation
United Ways of California
Women’s Foundation of California

Local signers:
Long Island Community Foundation
Samuel S. Fels Fund
Silicon Valley Community Foundation
Westchester Community Foundation