The 2020 Census allowed people living in the United States to self-report online, something Emily Kelley, census partnership coordinator for Kansas and Oklahoma, said has helped the self-response rate.
“Our internet self-response numbers are above our projections,” Kelly said. “We’re a little bit ahead of where we thought we would be for self-response nationwide.”
In Johnson County, the self-response rate is nearing 75 percent, just behind the total self-response rate from the 2010 Census. There are still about two months left until census fieldworkers will start checking on households that didn’t self-report.
Even with the ability to self-report online, Kelley said the response rate is higher than was expected.
Paige Wilson, media specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau, said the comparison between 2010 and 2020 is kind of like comparing “apples and oranges” because the 2010 Census didn’t have online or mobile self-reporting available. The 2020 Census is the first census to allow digital self-reporting.
Online, mobile options strengthen response
With online and mobile options now available, self-reporting is easier, Kelley said.
All households still received geo-coded census packets. The census can be completed on that questionnaire and sent it, or someone can take the household code from the packet and use it to complete the census online. People can also fill out the census via the phone.
If the initial deadline isn’t met for self-reporting, another census packet will be mailed to uncounted households.
The reference date — April 1 — is the day that a household’s count should be conducted based on. By April 1, 2020, the novel coronavirus had shut down the United States, keeping most people in their homes. While it’s affected the field operations, the pandemic hasn’t had much of an impact on the self-reporting procedures, Kelley said.
“I don’t know about you but I have my phone with me almost all the time, and responding to the census online takes about five minutes, maybe 10 minutes if you have a bigger household,” Kelley said. “It’s easy, it’s quick and it’s important.”
In the fall, field workers will go out to count the households who failed to self-report. By Oct. 31, Kelley said, the full count should be complete.
Why is the Census so important?
An accurate count will set the tone for the next decade in Kansas, Kelley said. In addition to informing how local districts are drawn, the census count will decide the fate of billions of dollars of federal funding for public health, emergency response preparedness, education, social services and other critical infrastructure and programs. It will also determine congressional representation.
“The COVID-19 pandemic really underscores why the count is important,” Kelley said. “So many of the relief programs to help with our fight against COVID-19 have been based on decennial census numbers.”
To complete the census online, visit the 2020 Census website.