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Rural people, my friends and neighbors, fill out your Census forms!
As of late last week, the response rate on the Census from rural America was abysmal. Nationally, 46.7% of American households had filled out their Census forms. In rural counties adjacent to metro areas, the rate as of April 8 was 39 percent.
In rural counties that are not adjacent to metro areas, the rate was 34.3 percent.
My fellow Texans in the far western part of the state take the cake. In Loving County, home to 64 people at last count, nobody had filled out a Census form. Zero.
Compare those rates to the major metro areas, where nearly half the residents have made sure they are counted.
The map shows response rates as of April 8 in all counties.
There is still plenty of time to be counted. Because of the coronavirus crisis, the deadline for answering the Census has been extended to August 14. You can fill out your form either online or by filling out a paper questionnaire and sending it back by mail. Just keep an eye on your mailbox and your front door for instructions. Census workers will even call if you don’t respond online or through the mail.
Rural America has traditionally been weak in responding to the Census. Who knows really why that might be. Fewer people have Internet connections. Maybe some people distrust the government. (Remember, the Census is part of the U.S. Constitution.) Many of the counties with the lowest response rates are found in counties that are particularly remote, so there may be problems with getting the word and the information out. There are articles about the phenomenon of low rural response rates here
Response rates are particularly low in Indian Country. In Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota, the response rate to the Census was 0.5 percent as of April 8. Indian Country, in particular, has reason to mistrust government. There could be mail problems or language issues.
There are many reasons given for rural Americans’ reluctance to answer the Census. There is no debate, however, that a full response benefits every community. Representation in state and federal government is based on population. If you aren’t counted in the Census, your vote is diminished.
Federal and state programs are often based on population, such as Rural Education and Rural Domestic Violence Assistance. If you aren’t counted by the Census, your community will receive a smaller slice of the pie.
Think about it: If you aren’t counted, it will mean there will be fewer dollars going to your children’s classroom.
So, get counted. Today. If you want to know how, visit the Census website. Or call 844-330-2020.