Census response rates trend higher in local towns

Sept. 10, 2020 | Miasha Lee

The towns of Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Hampden and Wilbraham all have high response rates for their censuses at this time in comparison to the state average and national average.
Reminder Publishing stock photo

WESTERN MASS. – This year, households across the United States completed the 2020 Census – however some local towns are doing better with their responses than others. Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Hampden and Wilbraham all have unusually high response rates for their censuses in comparison to the state’s average of 67.4 percent and national average of 65 percent response rate.

Under Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution every 10 years the country conducts a poll of its population. The Census ask householders their name, number, age and date of birth as well as their race and ethnicity, gender, tenure and relationship to the first person they list on their census response.

Every weekday at 3 p.m., the U.S. Census Bureau releases updated self-response rates for communities. Regional Director Jeff Behler stated, “Self-response rates are the percentage of households that have either gone online and filled out their 2020 census, called it in over one of our toll-free telephone numbers or filled it out on paper and mailed it.”

Behler gives an example, “If you see an area of 70 percent, that doesn’t mean we only counted 70 percent of the households. It just means we have to go knock on the door of the 30 percent who haven’t responded to try to get that information in person.”

When they release the data, Behler said people won’t see names or addresses. It’s a statistical summary at some geographical level whether that’s a state, city, town, county or census track the percent of people that live in that particular geography, the number of housing units that exist in that geography, what percentage that are vacant versus occupied, age distribution within that geography and ethnicity breakdown.

According to the 2020 Census, the response rate in Longmeadow is 85.6 percent, which is significantly above the Massachusetts statewide average of 67.4 percent and national average of 65 percent.

During the height of Census taking, Longmeadow Town Manager Lyn Simmons was receiving weekly updates and tracking the response rate for Longmeadow and the region when she noticed the town was trending above some of their neighboring communities.

 “The numbers help the town receive a fair distribution of federal and state funds spent on schools, roads, public works and other vital programs,” said Simmons. “Many people were home during this time frame in response due to the pandemic, so they may have had more time to complete it. The improvements made to Census 2020 by allowing an online response may have contributed to the response rate by providing another way to quickly respond.”

In East Longmeadow the response rate is 83.3 percent.

Town Clerk Jeanne Quaglietti explained to Reminder Publishing that she has been watching the statewide numbers and was aware of the rate. She said, “The U.S. Census gave us fair warning of the 2020 U.S. Census with statewide training and workshops.”

Quaglietti explained residents of East Longmeadow had been calling their office with questions they’ve been able to answer and educate them about the federal census.

“When we sent out the local census that goes out every year, we included an insert with information about the U.S. Census, the difference between the local and federal census and the importance of completing both,” Quaglietti explained,

In Wilbraham, the response rate is 83.6 percent. Wilbraham Town Clerk Carole Tardif explained she knew about the percentage from the reports she received. Tardif received calls from residents asking if they should respond to the 2020 Census – she said she has told everyone yes.

“It is important for all residents to fill out the 2020 Census because all of our funding comes from this number. Funding is for school, senior programs and so much more,” she said.

In the town of Hampden, the response rate is 84.1 percent. Hampden Town Clerk Eva Wiseman said, “I try to make it apparent that it’s good for us to respond to the census. I have links on our websites and reminders so it appears to be working.”

 She continued, “Our representation in the government is based on our populations. If you don’t have as many people, you don’t have as many representatives. If you want representation, you want to make sure that they know you’re here. There are things that are based on your population. The ages of your population and the type of population that you have so having that information available to federal government certainly helps us in the long run.”

The Census will conclude data collection efforts on Sept. 30.

Behler noted that, “This is the once a decade opportunity we get where we’re not creating an estimate or making projections. We are out there actively trying to count every person who lives in the United States. That’s why this is important because it will shape the future of your community for the next 10 years.”

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