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.

Why is the South lagging behind? — and other questions about response rates and the 2010 Census mapping tool.

I’m hoping Nate Silver or another quantitative/statistical genius (other than Census Director Robert M. Groves) can provide me with  details about the current participation rates for the 2010 Census (updated Monday-Friday by the Census Bureau). Some key questions I hope to ask Dr. Groves at his press conference later today:

1. How do these rates compare with mail response rates for this time of year during the 2000 Census?

2. From my casual observations, it appears that the South is lagging behind in 2010 Census response rates. Does that this mean there will be a shift of more workers to this region? (And actually, does this mean that more taxpayer money will be infused into regions that DON’T participate in the 2010 Census initially, so more workers will physically knock on every door in these places, and thus raise the amount of cash generated for workers in such areas?)

3. IT Question Why the heck does my computer, which rarely ever experiences problems, freeze when I try to zoom in to check out Census Data? Come on Census Bureau, get your act together with your technology!

4. Should states or counties with low mail response rates be punished in some way (such as by withholding funds in the future), as it will be more costly to run more extensive non response follow up operations in these areas?

5. Why are areas of the map of the US (at the local level) blank in some instances?

6. Why can’t view the response rate for a particular town or city in all situations — and sometimes only one part of a city or town?

7. Why is it impossible for the common man (me!) with some statistical knowledge to understand what the data in the “Download Today’s Data” means — particularly because we don’t know what each of the “regions” stands for?

8. Why has the Census Bureau created such an incomprehensible explaination on their web site to explain the difference between mail response rate and mail participation rate?

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10 Responses to “Why is the South lagging behind? — and other questions about response rates and the 2010 Census mapping tool.”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    “How come” is one of the worst English mistakes ever. Please do not read this verbatim!

  2. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    OK Jennifer – I corrected my grammar to appease you. I apologize for making one of the “worst English mistakes ever” <– But if you must know, your comment is filled with poor grammar.

  3. Rachel Says:

    Regarding #1, I’ve been looking into that myself … Based on Appendix F of this document, http://www.census.gov/pred/www/rpts/A.7.a.pdf, the U.S. mail response rate was 31.9% nine days after questionnaire mailout began. By comparison, nine days after mailout this year (3/24), the national mail participation rate is just 16%. Granted they are slightly different measures, but the participation rate is supposed to be the higher of the two. The current participation rate does seem to be inline with the Census 2000 long-form response rate, as seen in Appendix G-2…

  4. kj Says:

    Mail Response rate = Total number of forms returned/total number of forms sent out
    Mail Participations Rate = total number of forms returned/(total number of forms sent out – number of forms returned as ‘undeliverable’)

  5. Censusless worker Says:

    I work for the Census, a $14.7 Billion endeavor, and my office cannot get paper or ink presently. With only 300,000,000 people in this country, where is the nearly $15 Billion dollars being spent? This is the biggest fraud on the public and when is someone going to step up to the plate and address this?

  6. Annie Says:

    Some people have said that the US immigration office is going to trace census respondents, find out if they are in this country legally, then locate and deport them if they are not. It’s part of a crackdown on undocumented workers — SO wrong!

  7. TR Says:

    Annie – tell those people to take off their tinfoil hats. If that did happen, it would be highly illegal.

  8. Anonymous CL Says:

    “Why has the Census Bureau created such an incomprehensible explaination on their web site to explain the difference between mail response rate and mail participation rate?”

    Are you complaining about this explanation? Seems quite comprehensible to me.

    http://2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map/#PRate

    Why Mail “Participation” Rate Is A Fairer Measure than Mail Response Rate

    The Mail Participation Rate is the percentage of forms mailed back by households that received them. The Census Bureau developed this new measure in 2010, in part because of the current economy and higher rates of vacant housing. The rate excludes households whose forms were returned to us by the U.S. Postal Service as “undeliverable,” strongly suggesting the house was vacant. We will still follow up on all these housing units to ensure everyone is counted.

    Mail Participation Rate is a higher number than the Mail Response Rate we have used over the last decade, but it is a better measure of actual participation and therefore an easier goal to achieve when residents mail back their forms. In 2000, the national Mail Response Rate was 67% and the comparable national Mail Participation Rate was 72%. The Mail Response Rate is important to help us plan for the important door-to-door workload that begins in May during which we visit all households that have not returned a census form.

    My summary of the differences in the rate formulas:

    Mail Return Rate = (forms mailed back) / [ (forms mailed out in Mailout-Mailback areas & hand-delivered in Update-Leave areas) - (mailed forms returned as undeliverable) - (unreturned forms later determined by NRFU enumerators to have been mailed/delivered to vacant/nonexistent housing units) ]

    Mail Participation Rate = (forms mailed back) / [ (forms mailed out in Mailout-Mailback areas & hand-delivered in Update-Leave areas) - (mailed forms returned as undeliverable) ]

    Mail Response Rate = (forms mailed back) / (forms mailed out in Mailout-Mailback areas & hand-delivered in Update-Leave areas)

  9. Anonymous CL Says:

    And FYI, Stephen, in regard to Jennifer’s comment about “how come”: perhaps you already changed another “How come” to a “Why”, but there is still one in item 6 of your post. Since you said you were correcting that, you might want to change the remaining “How come” too. Follow-through is important. ;-)

  10. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    Changing it now!