Monday, August 28, 2017

Rural area with low internet access dropped from census test involving use of digital advertising

The U.S. Census Bureau announced plans last year to do a dry run of the 2020 census by polling three very different communities: Providence, Rhode Island; Pierce County, Washington; and a nine-county section of rural West Virginia. But now the bureau says it must drop West Virginia and Washington from the End-to-End Census Test because President Trump's proposed budget gave the agency $164 million less than what it says it will need for the testing, Emma Kromm reports for Facing South, a publication of the Institute for Southern Studies.

The nine-county area of West Virginia that was cut
from the test. (Census Bureau map; click to enlarge)
The drop could cause problems, because the census is trying to make sure that new polling methods will be successful in different demographic areas with varying levels of internet access. The testing will consist of updating residents' addresses by door-to-door canvassing as well as advertising, distributing and collecting a census questionnaire. Much advertising will be online, since that costs less than sending out a field worker or, often, taking out a newspaper ad. Rural areas often have spotty internet access, so a dry run will help determine if a digital media-heavy advertising campaign will work in rural areas. More than 31 percent of residents in the West Virginia census test area lack good residential broadband access.

"That could have broad implications for the South," writes Kromm. "While about 19 percent of the country's population is rural, the figure for Southern states is over 33 percent. At the same time, rural areas tend to be more economically depressed and dependent on federal aid. In fact, West Virginia receives the highest level of per capita federal funding at $2,755 per person — some of which is determined by census data."

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