Two States Top 2000 Census Rates
Some people have been so dutiful about returning their Census forms that participation rates in two states and more than 700 counties have topped 2000 levels.
The Census Bureau is asking residents to mail back their forms by Friday to avoid the onerous task of knocking on doors to collect the information - a cost averaging $56 per household.
North Carolina and South Carolina surpassed 2000 rates last week, and Kentucky has matched its rate.
Counties and other states in their region also are responding strikingly better than 10 years ago - much of the improvement fueled by strong participation in small towns, according to a USA TODAY analysis. "There's variability across the country in areas that have organized their communities much better than others," Census Director Robert Groves says.
Much of the Rocky Mountain region is lagging.
Improvements in the response rate in the five states in the Census Bureau's Charlotte region - Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia - point to effective outreach by residents. Four of the five have the most improved rates.
South Carolina is spending $1 million to publicize the Census through billboards and events. Charleston was the first of four cities with more than 100,000 people to have topped its 2000 rate. (The others are Cambridge, Mass.; Minneapolis; and Olathe, Kan.) "The (South Carolina) Legislature didn't just say they wanted a good count, but they put up money," says Wayne Hatcher, regional Census director. "They weren't going to end up in 2010 like in 2000, second worst (after Alaska)."
More than 1,000 partnerships in the five states have paid off:
- In Georgetown County, S.C., where 67 percent have returned their forms compared with 48 percent in 2000, the county opened every senior, community and recreation center to Census workers.
"In this economy, everybody understands the numbers really count," says Beth Goodale, director of recreation and community services.
The distribution of more than $400 billion a year in federal aid is based on Census counts. The numbers are used to allocate seats in the House of Representatives. South Carolina is likely to pick up a seventh seat next year.
The county is targeting areas that responded poorly in 2000 - mostly black and rural. Last week, the county called every household in two neighborhoods to attend a "fun meeting with free Census stuff," says Planning Director Boyd Johnson, the county's Census contact.
- In Pender County, N.C., the mailback rate was at 53 percent in 2000. It hit 69 percent Monday, higher than the national rate of 66 percent. "We struggled at first even getting a committee together," says Jan Dawson, who assigns addresses and maps streets for the county.
Pender, one of the fastest-growing counties in the state this decade, has attracted retirees, seasonal residents and Hispanics.
"Trusted voices of the community, who can speak of the value of the Census . . . that's what's made the most difference in this region," Hatcher says. "They realize it will bring jobs to their region."