With mail-out of the 2010 Census forms less than one month away, the Census Bureau last week unveiled a new online mapping tool that allows communities nationwide to prepare for the 2010 Census by seeing how well they did mailing back their 2000 Census forms.
Visitors to the new Google-based map will be able to find the 2000 Census mail participation rates for states, counties and cities, as well as smaller areas called “census tracts.” After the 2010 Census forms are mailed out in mid-March, the online map will be updated to include a tracking tool with daily updates of the 2010 Census mail participation rates for local areas across the nation. Users will be able to compare their 2010 Census progress using their 2000 Census rates as a benchmark.
“The future of your community starts with a look at its past,” said Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves. “The 2000 Census map allows communities to see which areas need extra attention and reminders to improve mail participation. We will be challenging communities nationwide to take 10 minutes to fill out and mail back their 2010 Census forms this month.” The Census Bureau has also created an online toolkit with ideas that communities can use to inspire their residents to improve their mail participation rate.
The emphasis on encouraging mail participation in the census is a practical one. For every 1 percent increase in mail response, taxpayers will save an estimated $85 million in federal funds. Those funds would otherwise be required to send census takers to collect census responses in person from households that don’t mail back the form. After the 2000 Census, the Census Bureau was able to return $305 million in savings to the federal Treasury because mail rates exceeded expectations – a move the Census Bureau would like to repeat in 2010.
In 2000, 72 percent of households that received a form mailed it back. In Texas County, the figure was 67 percent. The mail participation rate is a new measure designed to give a better picture of actual participation by factoring out census forms that the U.S. Postal Service was unable to deliver as addressed. It should be particularly useful in areas with seasonal populations or a large number of vacancies or foreclosures.
As required by the U.S. Constitution, the once-a-decade census must count every person living in the United States. Census data are the basis for our democratic system of government, ensuring that representation in government is equally distributed. The data also help determine how more than $400 billion in federal funds are distributed to state local and tribal governments every year. That includes money that could go toward roads, hospitals, schools and critical social services.