California among most states across country with low response rates to 2020 Census

Jessica De Nova Image
Tuesday, August 4, 2020
CA residents lag in responding to 2020 Census
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The 2020 Census is underway but early return numbers are coming back on the low side, sparking a new push to get more people to respond with so much at stake.

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- The 2020 Census is underway but early return numbers are coming back on the low side, sparking a new push to get more people to respond with so much at stake.

Just days from the Get Out the Count Day, the California Complete Count Committee (CCCC) on Monday reported data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which showed 9.7 million households, or 64.1%, in the state had self-responded, putting California 4.1 percentage points behind its 2010 final self-response rate (SRR).

The Director of the CCCC, Ditas Katague, said this was happening in most states.

"Only four states in the nation have actually met their 2010 response rates, so it's a trend nationally that almost all the states are running behind what their self-response rates were in 2010," Katague said.

Katague said face-to-face outreach from trusted community partners proved useful in increasing census responses in 2008 and 2010.

This time around, COVID-19 forced nonprofits to think outside the box with things like caravans to get the word out.

"COVID-19 has really impacted our outreach efforts," Katague said.

LA County residents lag California in responding to 2020 Census

Now, there's an added challenge with talk that the U.S. Census Bureau will shorten the door-knock time period by a month, from the end of October to the end of September. A spokesperson with the agency did not confirm this with Eyewitness News.

As of Monday, the U.S. Census Bureau website still showed these operations going through the end of October.

"By shortening that time period, where they have the opportunity to go out and count, that leaves us at risk and not just California, but all the nation to be at risk for an undercount of those folks," Katague said.

California is also seeing that some tracts with a traditionally lower hard-to-count, or HTC index, weren't responding as expected.

Usually more affluent, these communities don't face barriers like language or access to internet and historically have higher SRRs.

"Anywhere going from Malibu, Beverly Hills, Newport Beach, actually. There's certain tracts that we would've assumed they would've answered and they actually have a pretty low rate, lower than some of our hardest-to-count tracts more in the central city," Katague said.

Katague said it's important for all communities to make themselves count in order to work toward equal representation.

"It's about power. It's about money, right? It's about keeping our voice in Washington D.C. It's about how our districts, how you are represented. How your community is represented," Katague said.

The U.S. Census Bureau starts non-response follow up Aug. 11. Those not wanting to deal with a knock on their door from enumerators can fill out their census form online or mail it in this week.