Crisis, Resilience, and Civic Engagement: Pandemic-Era Census Completion

General Information

Crisis, Resilience, and Civic Engagement: Pandemic-Era Census Completion
Elaine Denny
Publication Type
Working paper
University of California Political Science
How do economic shocks and financial resilience shape civic engagement, especially for the economically insecure? I turn to the early months of the coronavirus pandemic for insights. In April 2020, with over 23 million adults unemployed, the U.S. government asked residents to participate in the Constitutionally-mandated decennial census. I test how variations in income shocks from the shutdown and sources of financial resilience predict disparities in census completion – a civic act designed to minimize participation barriers. First, I use nationally-representative survey data to show how policies that protect the economically vulnerable from the full impacts of economic shocks also predict higher census completion rates. Then, I use Google Trends data show that high unemployment search volume interacted with low resilience predicts depressed census completion. Findings shed light on how economic crises can widen participation gaps – with representation and resource consequences – and how policies that lessen acute economic shocks may reduce participation disparities.