Thursday, April 01, 2010

It's Census Day; return rates vary; look up yours

Today is Census Day, the date to which the decennial count is pegged. Response rates vary widely across the country. As of today, federal officials rank South Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, North Dakota and Iowa as the top five states in returning the census, but households have until mid-April to mail the forms back, Monica Davey of The New York Times reports. Residents of rural Wolford, N.D., wont need the extra time, as each of the approximately 50 locals who received a questionnaire have already returned it.

"Why wouldn't you send it back?" Jim Wolf, who has been mayor of Wolford so long he doesn't remember what specific year he entered office, asked Davey. "It's a rural community, and I guess we go by the rules." Wolford residents who haven't yet received their forms because the U.S. Census Bureau won't mail the questionnaires to post office boxes have begun to complain about the delay. (Read more)

Not all rural areas are enjoying the same success as Wolford in census return rates. Issaquena County, Miss., has an estimated one person for every 166 acres of land, and in 2000 joined the rest of the Mississippi Delta as one of the "most challenging and undercounted census tracts in the state," Shaila Dewan of the Times reports. Only 21 percent of households in the county have returned their census forms, compared to 52 percent nationally. Community groups have tried a number of strategies to increase census awareness, but officials say they will almost certainly have to go door-to-door to get a semi-accurate count. (Read more)

The Census Bureau has a searchable database of census return rates by zip code. The Times map below breaks down participation rates by county.

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