Clock is ticking on Census response in Wake County, here’s why it matters.

The Census will be ending earlier, and Census takers will begin knocking on doors today in the Raleigh area. So what does that mean?

In Wake County, specifically, 68.6% of households have self-responded to the Census, according to the county’s Monday release.

In the past, Wake County responded at a rate of 71.8% in 2010, 71% in 2000 and 66% in 1990, according to the NC Counts Coalition.

The 2020 Census is a big deal because it’s the every-10-year count of every living person in the country, regardless of citizenship status. All residents are required by law to respond.

FILL IT OUT NOW: 2020 Census

Here’s what happening now: The head of the U.S. Census Bureau announced last week that data collection would end Sept. 30, one month shorter than the earlier date of Oct. 31.

Door-knocking efforts, which begin in Wake County Tuesday, are also reported to also be cut short.

Census takers will wear masks, practice social distancing and have identification. If a Census taker doesn’t speak the language people in a household speak, a request can be made for a Census taker who does speak the same language to return.

If a Census taker visits your home and no one is there, a message will be left with ways to respond online, by phone or mail.

“It’s critical that we get an accurate census count,” said Vickie Adamson, vice chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners in a release. “The census determines so much—from the amount of federal funding we get for things like emergency services and child nutrition to making sure we are appropriately represented in Congress.”

Who’s at risk of undercount now? In NC Counts Coalition’s recent report, lower than average responses in Wake County include:

  • Majority BIPOC communities: The response rate in Wake County areas of 50% or higher Black, indigenous, Latinx or people of color is 58.3%.
  • Communities with less access to internet: When the percentage of households without internet is higher than 21%, Wake County response rates are lower. For communities with 21-30% without internet at home, the response is 52.9%. In communities where fewer have internet, 31% or more don’t have access at home, it’s 50.5%.
  • College students: Only 61.3% of NC State students, for example, have responded. In 2010, 70.5% responded. The NC Counts Coalition attributes lower response to growing mistrust in the government, limited media attention and the back and forth about the (now dropped) citizenship question.

There are many reasons to care about an accurate count, even before COVID-19. From our earlier report:

  • It shapes local planning: It’s the “backbone” of almost every other data set.
  • It shapes representation: This information shapes redistricting at the local and state level, but also means more national representation for our growing state. If North Carolina gets an accurate count, our state is expected to gain an additional seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and an additional seat in Congress, according to the N.C. Counts Coalition
  • It shapes funding: In Raleigh, the city has shared each person represents $1,600 in funding.

What else do you want to know about the Census? Send an email to editor@raleighconvergence.com.

Author: raleighconvergence

Sarah Day Owen Wiskirchen is the editor of Raleigh Convergence.

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