PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows 99.9% of the country’s households have been counted, but that doesn’t mean everyone responded.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that just over two-thirds of the nation’s households proactively responded to this year’s Census. The remainder got a knock at the door, but in a pandemic, it’s unclear how many people were willing to answer.
The data reveals that 69.3% of households in Massachusetts self-responded, meaning they answered the Census by mail or online. The same was true of 65.5% of Rhode Island households.
So when the Census Bureau said 99.9% of households were accounted for, it means either through self-response or a follow-up.
John Marion, a member of Rhode Island’s Complete Count Committee, explained that when door-knocking doesn’t yield results, Census workers will check in with neighbors or consult administrative records.
“In normal times, we would have expected that they got pretty good response, but because of the pandemic and people’s unwillingness to talk to a stranger that might be knocking on their door, I suspect even though they were able to knock on all the doors, they didn’t have the success they normally would,” Marion said.
Marion said in Rhode Island’s case, 34.4% of households got a knock on their door, but the Census Bureau doesn’t disclose how many door knocks actually yield results.
“That could be zero percent of those houses that they knocked on, that could be 100%,” he said.
It’s been a turbulent year for the Census, which was supposed to end in July, but was extended due to the coronavirus pandemic. A Supreme Court ruling halted counting on Oct. 15.
“The 2020 Census faced challenges like no other decennial census in living memory,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur L. Ross, Jr., in a statement. “Achieving these metrics in the face of severe weather events and a global pandemic is a testament to the determination and ingenuity of the hundreds of thousands of dedicated women and men who worked on the 2020 Census.”
Nationwide, the final self-response rate for 2010 was 66.5%, compared with 67% in the 2020 Census to date.
Now that the count has concluded, the Census Bureau is crunching numbers in order to deliver state and territory population counts by the Dec. 31 deadline.
In the meantime, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a case next month on whether the Trump administration can legally exclude undocumented immigrants from the Census count, which lower courts have deemed unconstitutional.
Marion said an undercount could impact the number of Congressional seats a state retains, or how much federal funding it receives.
“Every person who doesn’t get counted one way or the other — it costs the state political representation, it costs the state thousands of dollars per year, and those numbers are locked in for 10 years, so it could cost the state tens or hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade,” Marion explained.