The Marshall Independent
By Deb Gau
Two Minnesota members of Congress are calling on the director of the U.S. Census Bureau to give an updated count for Marshall’s 2020 census. In a Tuesday news release, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Michelle Fischbach said they were asking Census Bureau Director Robert Santos to resolve a reported undercount in the census data.
Originally, the April 2020 census said Marshall’s population had decreased by 52 since 2010. The city of Marshall appealed the count, saying the census didn’t include the university student population that would normally be living in Marshall.
In December, the Census Bureau said it had resolved Marshall’s case. However, the city was told that due to data privacy concerns, the new population numbers couldn’t be released, Marshall Mayor Bob Byrnes said.
“There was not a good explanation,” Byrnes said of the Census Bureau’s decision. “These are just bulk numbers, they’re not individual identifiers.”
Having an accurate census count is important for economic development reasons, Byrnes said. When businesses or employers look at coming to a community, they look at that community’s demographics, he said.
“It’s particularly important in our region of the state,” where there has been a population decline except for growing regional centers, like Marshall, Willmar and Worthington, Byrnes said.
Klobuchar and Fischbach made the full text of their letter to the Census Bureau available in the news release.
“An accurate and comprehensive census is fundamental to our democracy and the well-being of communities across the country,” the letter said. “The city of Marshall is home to Southwest Minnesota State University, which enrolled 6,660 students in the fall of 2019, including 427 who lived on campus. Very few of these students were present on campus on April 1, 2020 due to a shift to remote learning necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the population of the city of Marshall was undercounted during the 2020 Census.”
“Accurate population counts are critical for cities for municipal planning and applications for grants and other resources,” the letter went on to say. “We strongly urge the U.S. Census Bureau to work with the city of Marshall to resolve this undercount and update the City’s population count to reflect the college student population that lives there.”
Byrnes said it was good to have support to try and resolve the census count issue. Marshall had reached out to members of Congress and the Minnesota state demographer’s office.
“Both Senator Klobuchar and Congresswoman Fischbach have been helpful, as well as State Demographer Susan Brower,” Byrnes said. “Everyone agrees it’s a ridiculous situation that the U.S. Census Bureau will not release the accurate census numbers for the population of Marshall.”
Marshall was the only community in Minnesota that appealed its 2020 census count, Byrnes said.