Census Response: Politics, Place, Poverty

[imgbelt img=RuralCensusResponseApril5528.jpg]It’s true. Counties that had higher than average votes for John McCain in 2008 are also slower to send back their Census forms.


[imgcontainer] [img:RuralCensusResponseApril5528.jpg] [source]Roberto Gallardo/U.S. Census

This map shows how rural counties are responding to the Census. Green counties are responding at rates above the national average. Red counties are responding below the national average. Click the map or here to see a bigger version of the map.

What explains the differences from place to place in the 2010 Census response rate?

The map above shows the percentage of households in rural counties that have sent back their Census forms. (Click on the map to see a bigger version.) The lowest response rate comes from Hinsdale County, Colorado, the least densely populated county in the state. (Census count in 2000 for Hinsdale tallied 790 souls.) Only 17% of the county’s population had sent back Census forms by Monday.

Meanwhile, the highest response rate (as of April 5) could be found in two counties: Pierce County, North Dakota, and Brown County, Minnesota. These two counties toped 81%. (To find the latest response rates — they are updated every day — go here.) 

There have been all sorts of explanations for why some places have been quick to respond to the Census while others have lagged. One report suggested Republicans may be holding back as a protest against big government.  Another reporter claimed to have “debunked” this story. 

In an effort to understand why counties have higher response rates than others, the Daily Yonder has conducted an analysis at the county/parish level to help explain the variation in the 2010 census response rates.

According to the U.S.  Bureau, the average national response rate was close to 60% as of April 5th, 2010.  Our first question is whether rural areas are responding at different rates than urban counties. They are. The graph here shows the response rates broken down between metro counties, counties with small cities (micro counties) and those purely rural counties. 

Southern Rural Development Center.