Low response in 6 states concerns Census Bureau
Updated 5:22 p.m. ET
The U.S. Census Bureau warned parts of six states on Tuesday about low response rates to the 2010 Census, with just two days left before census forms come due.
Response rates in parts of Alaska, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas are well below the national average response rate of more than 50 percent, the agency said. But that national average is still well below the 72 percent of households that mailed back the forms in 2000. The number could still climb higher by week's end.
“Every household that fails to send back their census form by mail must be visited by a census taker starting in May — at a significant taxpayer cost," Census Director Robert Groves said in a statement. "The easiest and best way to be counted in the census is to fill out and return your form by mail.”
A low response rate doesn't mean people in those cities will be left out -- it just means the Census Bureau will have to hire more people in those areas to count people who failed to respond.
The Census Bureau plans to hire about 1 million temporary workers to conduct in-person interviews with households that fail to return census forms. The agency has taken great pains to boost participation rates in order to hire fewer workers and save on hiring and transportation costs.
Groves and colleagues sounded the alarm for several big cities in the six states:
In Anchorage, 41 percent of residents have mailed back forms, well below the 70 percent who did so in 2000.
Birmingham has a 35 percent response rate and Montgomery has 41 percent, compared with 2000 averages of 63 percent and 70 percent, respectively.
Just 32 percent of Miami residents have responded and only 38 percent of Tampa residents. In 2000 62 percent of Miami residents mailed them back, as did 68 percent of Tampa residents.
New Orleans has a 24 percent response rate, far lower than the 58 percent from 2000.
Jackson has a 31 percent rate, compared with 72 percent in 2000.
Only 25 percent of Brownsville residents have responded, as have just 33 percent of folks in Austin and Houston. In San Antonio, 37 percent of residents have replied. All of those cities had response rates of 63 percent or better in 2000.
The numbers in Louisiana and Texas are especially troubling because the agency has spent a considerable amount of time promoting the headcount in Gulf State communities impacted by the mass migration in and out of southern cities after Hurricane Katrina.
States with the highest response rates are all in the midwest: South Dakota (62 percent), North Dakota (61 percent), Nebraska (60 percent), Iowa (58 percent) and Wisconsin (58 percent).
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| March 30, 2010; 1:22 PM ET
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