American Indians and Alaska Natives Living on Reservations Have the Highest 2020 Census Undercount

Published on Mar 10, 2022

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released the national results of its Post Enumeration Survey (PES), which was conducted to assess the accuracy of the 2020 Census. The PES is used to determine estimates of undercounts and overcounts in the decennial census. Today’s results confirmed the analyses of many data experts that significant undercounts occurred in the 2020 Census for groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the census data. Most alarmingly, the 2020 Census results for American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) living on reservation lands were estimated by the PES to be undercounted by 5.6%. In the 2010 Census, AI/ANs in reservation lands had the highest undercount of all groups at 4.9%.  While the difference in undercounts between 2010 and 2020 is not statistically significant, this persistent undercount of AI/ANs living on reservation lands is unacceptable, given the importance of census data in determining federal, state, and local resource allocation, funding distributions, and policy decisions.

"These results confirm our worst fears that the 2020 Census results would significantly undercount AI/ANs on reservation lands as it did in 2010,” said President Fawn Sharp of the National Congress of American Indians. Every undercounted household and individual in our communities means lost funding and resources that are desperately needed to address the significant disparities we face."

Since 2019, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) wrote several letters and provided numerous comments to the U.S. Census Bureau with our concerns about the possibility of undercounts of AI/ANs in the 2020 Census due to a variety of factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, delays in census operations, the lack of broadband on tribal lands for the new internet response option, and the adverse impact of new privacy measures. While these letters were an attempt to motivate the U.S. Census Bureau to meet its federal responsibility for Tribal Nations and work to reduce these undercounts, the results today now confirm that our AI/AN reservation communities may be left behind in funding formulas and funding decisions.

"Federal agencies must consult on a government-to-government basis with AI/AN Tribal Nations to find solutions to ensure that these 2020 Census undercounts do not lead to continued underfunding of our communities,” said President Sharp. “Despite the challenges of the 2020 Census, AI/ANs living on reservation lands deserve to be counted and to receive their fair share of federal resources as a part of the federal trust responsibility. NCAI calls for immediate tribal consultation on these results and potential efforts to address and adjust for these undercounts in future census data products."

The results released today for the Post Enumeration Survey can be viewed on the U.S. Census Bureau


About the National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information, visit

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