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One Hurdle to Helping Oklahoma's Kids: Not Knowing How Many There Are

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It could be tough to improve conditions for many young Oklahomans because there may be thousands more than we think.

Researchers estimate 93,000 Oklahomans younger than 5 years old live in hard-to-count Census tracts. That means they’re being undercounted or not counted at all.

"That’s really important, to get that accurate count, because billions of dollars in federal funding is at stake, based on the numbers that they bring up there," said Oklahoma Policy Institute's Gene Perry.

Besides funding, undercounting can cost hard-to-count areas political representation, improvements in infrastructure and access to services.

"And we also simply won’t be able to see what problems are there and who’s living in different situations in different places and know what we need to work on if we don’t get an accurate count," Perry said.

Perry said even with Congress approving a bigger budget for the Census Bureau than President Trump requested, the agency isn’t funded well enough, so cities and nonprofits will need to help convince people to respond to the 2020 Census.

"There may be a lot of misinformation about how that data is used and whether it’s dangerous to complete a Census form, but we really do need lots of people to do that to make this data that’s going to be essential to solving problems in the future," Perry said.

Hard-to-count tracts are often in rural or poorer areas.