Maricopa response rate to census underwhelming

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This was the first year people have been able to self-respond to the U.S. Census online and by telephone as well as mail.

Pinal County’s response to the U.S. Census is only slightly better than it was in 2010.

James Daniels, the county’s communications director, said the current self-response rate is at 56.4%. That is 1,912th out of 3,215 counties. Ten years ago, the rate was 53.7%.

Maricopa’s current response rate is 58.8%, a number “we expected to be a bit stronger than that,” said Daniels, who delivered an update Wednesday to the county’s Board of Supervisors. That is in the bottom of half of cities in the nation.

Community response in the county ranges from 68.3% in Queen Creek to 34.9% in Mammoth.

Daniels said each person counted is valued at about $3,000 per year, so response rates like those in Mammoth are concerning. The U.S. Census Bureau does not provide statistics at the county and city levels for data collected in person.

The census has been requested to deliver 2020 data to Congress by Dec. 31. That has created a deadline for in-person enumerators of Sept. 30.

But Daniels pointed out a National Urban League lawsuit is challenging the shortened schedule. That litigation, if successful in court, could extend the amount of time census workers have to gather data door-to-door.

This year, for the first time, residents have been able to report their census information online and by telephone as well as by mail. In-person census workers are visiting addresses for which there have been no self-response.

Percentage response rates, based on estimated totals, are derived from registered mailing addresses and census algorithms. Supervisor Anthony Smith, chairman of the Pinal County board, said that makes the goal numbers “ambiguous” and undercounting likely across the nation.

The county and municipalities are pushing to get residents to respond to the census. Daniels said the county has created video messages, social media posts and message boards. It has a countdown clock on the county’s website and plans to distribute 5,000 face masks with a census message at COVID-19 testing sites. Giveaways and entertainment events are also in the works.

Daniels said Arizona is 48th in the nation with its response rates. The state has a self-response rate of 62.1% and in-person rate of 18% for a total counted so far of 80.1%

Nationally, there is a 65.5% self-response rate and 22.7% in-person rate, totaling 88.2%.

Daniels said background checks were completed on 500 potential census workers in Pinal County. But with COVID-19 and the record heat this summer, the number of accepted enumerators fell to 134.