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Engagement 2020 Census response rate: Ideas to get more people to fill out the forms

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
20,051
Points
50
We are well underway with the 2020 Census. Unfortunately, we discovered that our response rate is significantly lower than many of the neighboring communities. We have a contractor who is charged with our Census effort, but COVID 19 has eliminated all their suggestions. So now I need to get involved.

In light of COVID 19, what efforts have you undertaken to get your count numbers higher? We are going to do a second hard push to get people to fill them out on their own without having the door-to-door solicitors get involved early.
 
Messages
2,352
Points
20
michaelskis
First of all, I greatly appreciate your stating this thread. It's like you read my mind: I came back to Cyburbia partly to exchange ideas on how to deal with very serious 2020 Census issues.
Unfortunately, we discovered that our response rate is significantly lower than many of the neighboring communities.. . .
My zip code, and neighboring zip codes, have the same problem as that in your community: a significantly lower response rate.

In light of COVID 19, what efforts have you undertaken to get your count numbers higher?
The first thing we must do is to identify the REAL reasons for the low response rate. The REAL reasons may very different from the "official" reasons or "politically correct" reasons that everybody seems to be giving.

You may even know of reasons that are so ugly that you can't share them on a computer. If that is the case, discuss them in-person, or on a secure phone, with one or two extremely smart, knowledgeable, closed-mourh people who are not connected with your organizations or place of work. In that case, you would be acting as a concerned private citizen only.


TO BE CONTINUED.....
 

Salmissra

Cyburbian
Messages
5,978
Points
31
Around here it's fear:

-fear that the data is not secure
-fear that the data will be shared with ICE/immigration (we have an extremely high number of Indian immigrants, so they are worried that Immigration will look into their visa status)
-fear of the government in general - lack of positive interaction for decades

I don't have an idea on how to help get the numbers up. But I can tell you that this area has fears/concerns that may be different than your area.
 

WSU MUP Student

Cyburbian
Messages
10,472
Points
45
The response rate in the various tracts in our county are doing pretty well. The areas with the lowest response rates seem to fall into two categories:

  • Category 1 are communities with older, wealthier residents
    • We suspect that a lot of these residents may have stayed in Florida (or wherever they winter) longer than normal and either not responded yet or responded that they reside in those other places since they were not "home" by April 1st this year
    • While these areas are extremely wealthy, they also are relatively old and have a lower number of homes with broadband access than you would expect; we are hoping that a lot of these communities see their numbers increase once door-to-door canvassing begins
  • Category 2 are the typical urban/suburban communities with more transient, disadvantaged, and non-English speaking residents
    • There are tons of rentals in these tracts in our area and a couple of the county commissioners have worked with landlords and large property management companies to offer a $20 discount on their rent through the end of the year if the resident/tenant shows they have completed the Census
    • We've also set up public computer kiosks in property management offices, public health offices, etc. which go directly to the Census page to encourage tenants to fill them out
      • We were set to bring the kiosks to basically every local public building, big rental agency, shopping mall, school parking lot, etc. but that was shut down with everything else being shut down
    • Early on we engaged the local immigrant community and targeted leaders in the Mexican, Chaldean, Hmong, and Arabic cultures and got their buy-in to help promote the Census to their congregation and networks
    • We also did a lot of outreach with the National Pan-Hellenic Council as their members are VERY active in their local communities and they understand the importance of a full and accurate count

A couple of the communities in our county were among the first communities with more than 10,000 residents to have at least 80% response so that is a point of pride. I think we benefited as a county by forming a Complete Count Commission last spring to coordinate the Complete Count Committees that our cities, villages, and townships formed, to act as a place to share best practices, and to also advocate at the state level for more resources to promote the Census at the local level. It's too late to do a lot of this now though, but having this network has been beneficial.

I represent the county executive on our Commission and have been working closely with our representative from the regional Census office for the past 18+ months. I also worked on the county Census efforts in 2010 and I will say that there is a big difference in how the Census Bureau has promoted the 2020 Census compared to how they promoted the 2010 Census. I haven't seen the budget for marketing and promotion, but I'd guess it's probably down at least 50% from 2010 and the Census Bureau closed and consolidated many of their regional offices between 2012 and now, which only compounded the problem at the local level.

The 2018-19 government shut down also hurt the Census Bureau particularly hard. That shutdown occurred right around the time they had begun to hire their many of their professional outreach folks and statisticians. When the shutdown happened, that hiring was put on hold and many of the employees, who were only hired for temporary positions (24-36 month), decided to quit and then were never replaced. The level of institutional knowledge and professional expertise at the big regional offices is much lower than it was in 2010 and there has been no effort in the executive branch to bring that knowledge back up.
 

bureaucrat#3

Member
Messages
43
Points
3
We're a mixed bag, like many places. The census response rate looks like it would almost correlate perfectly with income levels. The only difference we've seen is that the housing authority has done a good job encouraging residents. The tract that has the lowest response rate is primarily mobile home parks that house our Hispanic community and a few apartments that cater to students who don't want to live in a college town. While we can try to explain that the specific data gets embargoed for decades, nobody seems to believe it. I have a hard time believing that completely, as well, and especially with current administration's regard for rules and laws.

The college students all left town for spring break, the 1st week of March and never came back. It was hard enough to get them to fill out the form when they were in town and the university sent emails and plastered the halls with posters. There are going to be some college towns that have sharp drops in population this census.

Our Census rep, who's on their 3rd or 4th round has basically said there's little budget and almost no organization compared to the previous ones. They said in years past there would be warehouses of signs, pamphlets, coloring sheets and whatever else you could imagine. This year they just point to documents on the web and said we are free to share them or print them at our expense.
 

Gedunker

Moderating
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
11,436
Points
39
<snip>

Our Census rep, who's on their 3rd or 4th round has basically said there's little budget and almost no organization compared to the previous ones. They said in years past there would be warehouses of signs, pamphlets, coloring sheets and whatever else you could imagine. This year they just point to documents on the web and said we are free to share them or print them at our expense.
This is also my fourth Census and I would wholeheartedly agree with this. Every prior Census has been loaded with swag - for the 2000 Census I got a 1.5 cu. ft. box stuffed full of wood pencils emblazoned with the logo, and another similar box loaded with refrigerator magnets (weighed a bloody ton!). I have next to my laptop, as I write this, a 3"x5" post it notepad with "This is Your Future. Don't Leave it Blank." and a Census form image in the lower right hand corner. Every department in the city was endowed with these things to last the rest of the year (2010, IIRC).

This year? Crickets. Of course, when you don't want to count some people, not going out of your way to encourage them to complete the Census seems likely to achieve the desired results.
 
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