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April 3, 2020 updates for the Census 2020 Hard to Count map


Census Day Bump in Response Rates; Your Data Questions Answered

#CensusDay2020 was a success! Congratulations to the many individuals and census stakeholder organizations across the country who helped get the word out on April about the importance of filling out the 2020 Census questionnaire, and filling it out online, by phone, or mail on your own to avoid a knock at your door later from a census taker whose job is to count you in person. The effort was coordinated by Census Counts 2020 and many other civil rights organizations and philanthropic foundations supporting their efforts.

These groups had to quickly shift and completely transform their Get Out the Count strategies and tactics in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, to switch from activities relying on large crowds and in-person contact, to an outreach effort focused almost solely on social media, phone calls, and texting.

And it was a success! The chart below visualizes the impact. Leading up to Census Day, the national self-response rate had been increasing slowly, growing between 1 and 2 percentage points per day (it started at 14.1% when the rates were first published on March 20). The national rate that was published on April 1 was 38.4%. But the rate published yesterday, reflecting all the online, phone, and perhaps even some mailed responses from Census Day, was 41.3% — almost a 3 percentage point increase from the day before. This was good news, especially since the daily 2020 rates were not increasing as quickly as they did during the 2010 Census.

Here's the chart showing the increase. Note that most states had an uptick in their rates based on the April 1 responses, reinforcing how widespread the Census Day activities were across the country.

Keep in mind that census operations were different in 2010 than now (there was no online option in 2010, there were only two mailings rather than staggered waves of initial mailings and multiple follow up mailings in 2020, and of course there was no pandemic in 2010 that caused key census operations to be delayed and to completely upend Get Out the Count (GOTC) campaigns). Nonetheless, the trajectory of the national self-response rates is important as we monitor whether America will be on track to meet and beat its 2010 rate.

Today, Minnesota is the first state to surpass the 50% self-response rate mark, with an impressive rate of 51.8% based on today's published rates.

Early next week be on the lookout for our analysis of the latest self-response rate trends as of April 2. The update will be available at our Center for Urban Research website, as well as at our HTC 2020 map.

Another update for today is our new Census 2020 Self-Response Data Q&A.

We've received several emails asking how to map the 2020 Census self-response rates, and how to compare those rates with demographic characteristics & other census participation metrics. This is not as straightforward as you might think, due to new data from the Census Bureau combined with Census Bureau terms that can be confusing. Our Q&A is intended to help guide other data analysts as they try to make sense of the 2020 (and 2010) self-response rates.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter at @Census2020Map !

The HTC 2020 map in action

Here's a roundup of media articles and editorials about the 2020 Census featuring our HTC map with a new focus on self-response rates:

Links to earlier updates

The HTC 2020 map is a work in progress. Other recent updates and enhancements are described here:

  • March 31, 2020: Week 1 analysis of census self-response rates.
  • March 23, 2020: Update on mapping self-response rates, with emphasis on the 2020 progress bar that fills in daily after the latest rates are published, easy share/embed options for your map, and some notes on the data.
  • March 19 2020: In a joint statement with our colleagues at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR), we highlighted the importance of a fair and accurate 2020 Census as the coronavirus challenges grow, and lifted up the resources available at our HTC 2020 map to help inspire Americans to fill out the 2020 Census form on their own. Self-responding helps ensure that the Census Bureau collects reliable data about the nation's population. And self-responding is a way to practice social distancing because it avoids a knock at your door later on from a census taker.
  • March 2020: The HTC map is now focused on census self-response rates. All the former info at the map is still there. But now that census mailings are going out, the map has been updated to reflect 2010 response rates in anticipation of integrating 2020 real-time rates after March 20. NB: the map not only displays response rates for each state, county, and tract, but also include a bar chart in the map's left-hand panel that shows the 2010 rate (and 2000, for historical context) for now. The 2020 column in the bar chart is empty, but it will start to go up after March 20. How quickly and how far it rises depends on local census stakeholders!
  • February 2020: New data on the risk of undercounting young children, in collaboration with the Population Reference Bureau. For more info, visit PRB's website.
  • January 2020: To help promote the official start of the 2020 Census in Alaska, we added a special "It Starts Here" (in Toksook Bay, AK) graphic on the map. Updates in January also included new 2014-2018 population estimates for tracts, counties, states, and legislative districts, and more.
  • December 2019: New advanced tract search feature, statewide maps of Census Bureau contact strategies, and more.
  • November 2019: Comprehensive information for all 2020 Census contact techniques combined in one place at the HTC 2020 map, so census stakeholders can more easily inform local residents about what to expect when the 2020 decennial census takes place. Also see the CUNY Center for Urban Research website for a state-by-state analysis.
  • October 2019: Updates to TEA designations; the latest examples of groups using the HTC map across the country; enhancing the HTC metrics with the Census Bureau's "low response score", the Urban Institute's projections of undercount by state; & more.
  • August 2019: In-Field Address Canvassing areas & stats on the map; organizations that are using the HTC map for local grant assistance; new examples of linking to and/or embedding the HTC map.
  • July 2019: new feature to highlight tracts based on share of households without internet access; a list of other census maps nationwide, and more.
  • June 2019: Census contacts by state/county; census tract search feature.
  • April 2019: customized printing, data downloads, and more.
  • March 2019: mapping Type of Enumeration Areas (TEA) and Area Census Offices (ACOs)
  • January 2019: new ACS data for the 2013-17 period (including internet access), new legislative info, public library locations, and tribal lands added to the map.

If you haven't signed up for our HTC 2020 map updates, please do so here.

We look forward to hearing your suggestions for improving the map. Please contact the Mapping Service at the CUNY Graduate Center with your feedback.


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Copyright © 2020 Center for Urban Research / CUNY Graduate Center, All rights reserved.

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