Thursday is the final day for completing the 2020 Census.
The deadline for accepting census responses has changed throughout this year, first pushed back because the coronavirus pandemic caused operational delays, then bumped up over the politics of congressional reapportionment. The US Supreme Court ruled Tuesday the Trump administration can end the field operations, and the Census Bureau announced it would cease counting on Thursday, Oct. 15.
As of Oct. 12, Nevada’s self-response rate to the census was 66.4 percent, an increase over the self-response rate of 61.4 percent one decade ago.
Nevada ranked 25th in the nation when it comes to self-response rate.
Silver State Voices Executive Director Emily Zamora, who sits on the Nevada Census’ Complete Count Committee, says the improvement from the previous decennial census is encouraging but the numbers are still too low.
“The problem is, there is a little over 30 percent of the population not reporting on their own behalf,” she adds.
Self response rates are seen as the most reliable data collection. That’s part of the reason the Census Bureau and advocates emphasize them. When households do not respond to the census, it triggers follow ups, including physical visits from census workers. But if direct contact isn’t made, census workers can attempt to collect information through landlords or neighbors or administrative records. It’s educated guesswork and can lead to unintended undercounting.
“A lot of those people are hard-to-count communities,” adds Zamora, referring to historically undercounted groups such as people of color, immigrants, low-income households, limited-English speakers, single-parent households, renters and young adults. “We don’t want any government entity making assumptions as to how many folks are living somewhere, what their ethnic background is. We want these communities to tell their own story.”
The Census Bureau is reporting Nevada’s “enumeration rate” as 99.9 percent. That’s a combination of the self-response rate and the “non-response follow-up” which includes the door knockers and any information gathered by proxy.
Zamora said she’s “deeply disappointed” in the Supreme Court decision and the confusion over the response deadline. The previously announced deadline had been Oct. 31.
“The average person, having to deal with work and kids, maybe the Census was not their number one thing but they thought they had two more weeks to fill it out,” she says. “That’s not the case anymore.”
Census data is used for a variety of purposes, including federal funding for things like Medicaid and the National School Lunch Program, which provides free or reduced lunches at public schools. Nearly one-third of Nevadans fall into a hard-to-count category.
In 2016, Nevada received $6.2 billion in federal funding based on 2010 census data numbers. That included $2.6 billion for Medicaid, $357 million for highway planning, $120 million for Title-1 (aka, schools with high percentages of low-income students) and $20 million for programs supporting victims of crime.
Responses to the Census will be accepted online at my2020census.gov until Oct. 15 at 11:59 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time (HST) — that’s Oct. 16 at 2:59 a.m. Nevada time. Information on phone options are available on the official Census website here.