The deadline to complete the decennial census has changed yet again. Counting is now expected to continue through Oct. 31. Connecticut leads the country as one of the best-counted states in the nation with a 99.9% enumeration rate, close to a perfect count.
Just over 70.5% of residents answered the census by phone or online. An additional 29.4% responded to census takers who knocked on doors in hard-to-count areas during what’s called a “non-response follow-up period.”
The “enumeration rate” is close to perfect when combining the self-response rate of 70.5% with the 29.4% response rate of those counted during door-knocking periods.
However, according to researchers at the City University of New York, data collected during door-knocking operations may be less reliable than self-responses.
If a housing unit does not self-count through the phone or online, enumerators target areas where self-response rates are low with a door-knocking operation. In order to ensure an accurate count, they can visit a household several times before they turn to “proxies,” such as a neighbor or landlord, to collect basic information about the household. They may also rely on administrative records or designate the housing unit vacant.
In Connecticut the non-response follow-up period began July 23 and continued through Sept. 30 when the first deadline was announced.
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said the number of people counted in the state during the census will determine where $11 billion in federal aid will go. Without an accurate count, funding for programs like Head Start, child care and health centers, SNAP and other food access programs could be in jeopardy.
“For so many families, particularly those in our urban core, if they don’t have access to these life-saving programs, they could go hungry,” Bysiewicz said in a news release. “If a family does not have access to child care, that means they will have difficulty working a full-time job. The stakes couldn’t be higher,” she said.
Jason Black, the communications director at the Community Renewal Team in Hartford, said the total response rate can be improved if residents self-respond online or by phone.
“The enumeration rate is fantastic. But they’re saying it’s almost a complete count there, but because we know there are self-response individuals particularly in Hartford who have not yet had a chance to complete the census, now is the time to do it,” he said.
This extended deadline indicates that Connecticut could reach a perfect count if self-response rates improve.
“Having that more or less additional month at this point to help people get counted, particularly in the city of Hartford, has been an uphill battle,” said Black.
According to CUNY’s Hard to Count Map 2020, Hartford’s self-response rate is under 50%. The 1% short of a perfect count represents missing data that will be estimated using a method called statistical imputation, the process of replacing missing data with substituted values.
Brenda León is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.