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Low response in 6 states concerns Census Bureau

By Ed O'Keefe

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).

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Ed O'Keefe  | March 30, 2010; 1:22 PM ET
Categories:  Census  
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So apparently not mailing in your Census form is stimulus! They will hire bureaucrats with your great grandchildren't money in order to find out why you didn't say in March how many people lived in your house in April, and it will all just trickle down. All hail stimulus!

Posted by: corrections | March 30, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps some people are confused by the form. I wasn't sure if I should send it back as soon as I received it or wait until April 1. It felt a lot like lying on a federal form to absolutely declare who was in my house on a date 2 weeks in the future. My household is very stable, but I imagine many households shake up a bit in two weeks.
I'm pretty educated and civic minded, so I was surprised that couldn't figure out when to return it.

Posted by: shen606 | March 30, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I have not returned the form because it clearly asks: How many people WERE living with you on 4-1-2010. I'll be sure and fill it out and return it by 12:01 AM on 4/2/2010.
What kind of moron designed the form this decade? All questions clearly ask for data on 4/1/2010.
STUPID GOV EMPLOYEES....should expect a flood of returns on 4/2/10.
More Obama admin stupidity...

Posted by: jrmorgan1 | March 30, 2010 11:32 PM | Report abuse

If you answer it before April 1st you are lying. If you answer it after April 1st you are late.

No way to win. The bureaucrats will get you (after their naps and smoke breaks, of course).

Posted by: jiji1 | March 31, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

It's so important for people to send in their Census forms. Particularly the underserved populations…having an accurate Census count is beneficial to our underserved population. Check out this article:

Posted by: juneduckworth | April 2, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

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