Census forms won’t reach homes until March, but the Census Bureau is already publicizing a three-stage advertising campaign aimed, in part, at encouraging people to fill out their forms and cooperate with Census workers.
So, in which states should the Census Bureau concentrate its efforts?
A look at the response rates from the 2000 and 1990 censuses show that, in general, the same states had low numbers in both years.
Alaska had the lowest response rate in both 2000 (56 percent) and 1999 (52 percent). South Carolina had the next-worse response rate in both years, with 58 percent in 2000 and 56 percent in 1990. (Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, had a response rate of just 53-percent in 2000).
At the other end, Iowa had the best response rate in 2000 with 76 percent, followed by Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin at 75 percent. In 1990, Wisconsin topped the list with a 77-percent response rate. Iowa and Minnesota tied for second-best at 76 percent.
The national response rate was 67 percent in 2000 and 65 in 1990. The Census Bureau is predicting a drop in the response rate, to 64 percent, for the 2010 Census.
More areas with low response rates include Washington, D.C. (60 percent in 2000, 56 percent in 1990), Louisiana (60 percent in 2000, 58 percent in 1990), Hawaii (60 percent in 2000, 62 percent in 1990), Vermont (60 percent in 2000, 64 percent in 1990) and Maine (61 percent in 2000, 58 percent in 1990).
Other states with high response rates were South Dakota (74 percent in both years), Virginia (72 percent in 2000, 70 percent in 1990), North Dakota (72 percent both years) and Ohio (72 percent in 2000, 75 percent in 1990).
This county-by-county map shows a more detailed breakdown of response rates from the 2000 Census.
Some states are already striving to improve their performance from the last count. The Herald in Rock Hill, S.C., reported that the state will have heavier marketing and outreach efforts in the 10 or 12 counties that had the lowest response rates in 2000.
“Some people just don’t understand the importance of the census,” Michael Sponhour, spokesman for the State Budget and Control Board, told the paper.