Boasting to Boost Participation

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Written by: Director Robert Groves

One of the interesting things that happened over the past few weeks is that local officials in different areas challenged each other that their census participation rates would exceed the other.

For example, two well-known towns have been battling to see which community has the highest participation rate for the 2010 Census.

Deadwood, South Dakota Mayor Francis Toscana and Tombstone, Arizona Mayor Dusty Escapule challenged their respective cities to earn the highest response rate – spurring resident’s awareness of the importance of the 2010 Census and for old west bragging rights.

Blog Deadwood (population 1,380) and Tombstone (population 1,504) are top destinations on the itineraries of travelers looking for Old West history. Both communities began as mining camps and had some famous residents and moments in history – Tombstone with its OK Corral gun battle that saw lawman Wyatt Earp, along with Doc Holliday and others, take on four outlaw gunmen; and Deadwood with the infamous murder of Wild Bill Hickok.

When the challenge was first announced, Tombstone Mayor Dusty Escapule declared “Deadwood we’re ready to take you on. Tombstone didn’t get the name ‘the town too tough to die’ by being lazy.” Deadwood mayor Francis Toscana responded — “As we know, census information is important to Deadwood’s schools, roads and emergency services – and now it’s even more important to our pride. We aren’t going to let Tombstone beat us in this Old West showdown.”

Governor’s Jennifer Granholm and Ted Strickland of Michigan and Ohio have been spurring on residents with a state-to-state challenge, and both states are running ahead of the national average. The mayors of Kansas City and St. Louis have a tight city race going as well.

Do you know of other challenges? I’d love to hear your stories – post a comment telling how your town “finished” in this important race.

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11 Responses to Boasting to Boost Participation

  1. C. Bahamon says:

    Census Playoffs. Great idea!

  2. S Niemi says:

    Were the 2000 mail participation rates adjusted to exclude vacant housing units and will the final 2010 mail participation rates be similarly adjusted and made available?

  3. Ron Wright says:

    S Niemi, The participation rates will reflect only those who mailed in their forms divided by the number of forms sent to valid addresses. There is no way to know whether a particular house/apt did not mail in the Census questionnaire because the unit was vacant on or before April 1st or because the resident who lived there forgot/delayed/refused to complete & mail in the questionnaire. In either case, the residence will be visited by a Census Bureau enumerator in order to complete the Census Bureau form.

  4. S Niemi says:

    You did not answer my question.
    The point of my original question was to determine if there will be final mail participation rates that are adjusted to exclude vacant housing units(you will have this information after the Vacant/Delete Operation). The issue here is that areas with large numbers of vacation homes or just vacant homes will not have an accurate depiction of how their residents responded. There are some areas that have vacancy rates of 50%. Their current rates are obviously very low, even if 100% of their residents returned forms.
    It appears that you did make some sort of adjustment to get from the Response Rates to the Mail Participation Rates in 2000. Can you be specific about what those adjustments were? I am a math person, feel free to get technical. The second half of the question is do you plan to use the same methodology in 2010?

  5. S Niemi, 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.

  6. Karin Reck says:

    As a genealogist I must say that I am highly disappointed in the census questions this year, particularly given the trying circumstances we as Americans are currently facing due to the Great Recession (second Depression). Had it not been for my knowledge of the importance of census data in the construction of lineages, I myself would have been prone to ignore the census this year. For all the money spent with pre-census mailings, TV, radio and print advertising, actual mailings of the pitiful census questionnaire, follow up mailings and now dispatching census takers to go door to door, it seems a shame the government did not feel the need to inquire as to the state of it’s citizens beyond the most minimal demographic information! Talk about not getting the most bang for your buck! No questions about occupation, none about employment, nothing on schooling, disability, property ownership, immigration status, military service (despite being at war!)? I find this disgraceful and wantonly self serving. It is blatantly obvious that this census has no interest in the people of this country beyond apportionment of representatives and taxes. I understand that those are the direct Constitutional purposes of the census; however it is shameful that the 1850 census will provide more useful information to my descendants and future statisticians than this current 2010 census.

  7. Karin, The American Community Survey is a new way of gathering detailed census data. The American Community Survey is part of the decennial census program and is essentially what used to be the long form. The American Community Survey data are collected continuously throughout the year and throughout the decade from a relatively small sample of the population (3 million addresses annually). The American Community Survey provides current, detailed socioeconomic and housing data every year, rather than once a decade. In their own way, the 2010 Census and the American Community Survey provide an important picture of America. They show not only the number of people who live here, but how we live as a Nation — our education, housing, jobs and more.

  8. sniemi says:

    I am trying to compare apples to apples. I would like to compare the 2010 and 2000 numbers but am unsure if the rates listed on Take 10 Map include all of the same assumptions and adjustments.
    1. Are the 2010 Mail Participation Rates listed on the Take 10 Map final or will there be changes?
    2. If there are still adjustments to be made, what are they? Is it just the undeliverable mail or will you remove vacant housing units, or something else?
    3. Are the 2010 mail response rates available (as opposed to the mail participation rates)?

  9. sniemi, The participation rates displayed on the “Take 10” Web site and map are the rates achieved prior to Tuesday, April 27, 2010. In the fall, “final” participation rates will be posted on the site. These rates will include late mail returns, “Be Counted” forms and telephone interviews not included in the preliminary participation rates. Final mail returns rates, which take into account confirmed vacant housing units, should be known by the end of the year.
    The 2010 mail participation rate already excludes households whose forms were returned to us by the U.S. Postal Service as “undeliverable,” the majority of which are likely vacant. (We will still follow up on all these housing units to ensure everyone is counted.) To calculate the participation rates for Census 2000, we similarly subtracted these undeliverable forms out of the denominator, to make the final 2000 participation rate comparable to the 2010 rates.
    We imagine that similar rates will be used to track participation in the 2020 Census. However, as the 2020 Census is in its beginning planning stages, it’s hard to say with certainty how participation will be measured.

  10. Ken Dupuy says:

    It’s now May 28th, & I still haven’t received ANY form. The quality of the questions is somewhat irrelevant if they aren’t sending any forms out! I finally had to generate my own form based on the FAQ, since there’s no “online” form. Unfortunately, I think most people don’t care enough to do as much work as I did.

  11. Gary Pierce says:

    We here in Springfield, Il had a similar challenge. The Mayors of Springfield, IL, and Peoria, IL issued a challenge, in which the loser would have to come to the winner’s town, and buy him lunch, and wear the city’s lapel pin for the rest of the year. Springfield, IL WON! This was spearheaded by the Partnership program in LCO 2530.

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