Monday, April 5, 2010

Studying Census Participation

In just about every form of media imaginable--from the web to the roadside and everything in between--the word is out: fill out your Census form and mail it back. With millions of dollars in federal funding for states and municipalities determined by Census data, participation is critical. It's also cost-effective. According to the US Census Bureau, taxpayers could save $1.5 billion if everyone mailed back their forms and door-to-door methods weren't needed.

As of today, North Carolina's Census participation rate stands at 62 percent, two points above the current national average of 60 percent. 59 percent of Edgecombe County's residents have mailed back their forms so far, the US Census Bureau says. In 2000, North Carolinians fell below the national average in Census , but only by one point: 66 percent to the national 67 percent figure.

While the people of Edgecombe County have done relatively well in returning their Census forms so far, a recent study still found some potential problems in Edgecombe. The study by the Institute for Southern Studies ranked Edgecombe County among the most likely North Carolina Counties to be under-counted in the Census. Out of 100 counties (100 being least likely for an undercount), Edgecombe ranks 3rd.

The study took 10 factors into account to determine the rankings:
  • Current unemployment rate
  • One-year unemployment growth
  • 2006-2010 layoffs
  • 2005-2010 foreclosures
  • One-year rolling foreclosure increase
  • Current poverty rate
  • Percent African-American
  • Percent Hispanic/Latino
  • 2000 Census mail response rate
  • 2000 Census undercount
Read the full report

The study found Lee County, which has a lower unemployment rate than Edgecombe, to be the county most at-risk for an under count; Yadkin County the least-risky.

Even though Edgecombe County has several potential risk factors like high unemployment and a large population living below the poverty line, Census 2010 could very well be more successful than the count a decade ago. It's only the first week in April, but Edgecombe has already surpassed its overall mail-in participation from the 2000 Census.

57 percent of the county's people mailed back their forms ten years ago; already this year, with a few weeks to go, Edgecombe is up to 59 percent participation. In a place with a strained social service system, where every dollar counts, the Census trend so far this year is welcome news.


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