My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

If you want the dough, mail back your census questionnaires

Today, GreaterGreaterWashington.org posted a great article about the correlation between mailing back census questionnaires and obtaining funding for Washington, D.C. From the article:

Studies show that the 1990 and 2000 Census failed to accurately tally the population, particularly the poor, children and minorities. As a result, these groups most likely lost programs and services that serve their communities. The failure of the Census to accurately count the District of Columbia’s population seriously shortchanged the federal funding the District deserves to fund schools, roads, health facilities, housing, and other important services for people who were not counted. Thus, the Census is more than just “counting people”.

In almost one year, households across the nation will receive the 2010 Census questionnaire in their mailboxes. One way to improve the count is to improve the mail-back response rate. The mail-back response rates indicates how many housing units returned a census paper questionnaire by mail. In 2000, the national mail-back response rate was 67%. The mail-back response rate for the District of Columbia was slightly lower, at 60%. A low mail-back rate reduces the accuracy of the census as well as drives up the cost of because interviewers must be sent out to households that did not return the questionnaire.

Using Census tract data on mail-back response rates, I calculated the 2000 Census response rate by ward. (Here is a map of the wards). Below are the approximate mail-back response rates. Update by David: I’ve created a map showing each ward with a color ranging from red to green based on the response rate. This uses the current ward map, however; ward boundaries shifted some since the 2000 Census.

  • Ward 1 – 57%
  • Ward 2 – 59%
  • Ward 3 – 77%
  • Ward 4 – 66%
  • Ward 5 – 58%
  • Ward 6 – 61%
  • Ward 7 – 56%
  • Ward 8 – 45%

Ward 3 had the highest mail-back rates for the District, while Ward 8 had the lowest. Several neighborhoods across Ward 8 had mail-back response rates below 40%, including Barry Farms, Congress Heights, Woodland and Fort Stanton. The low mail-back rates for poorer wards, such as 5, 7, and 8 is troubling. We need to improve that for the next census to ensure that those communities are counted and receive funding for critical social programs.