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Full-page version of the map.

As the Census Bureau prepares to go door-to-door to collect 2020 Census forms, the agency is asking for help boosting responses in hard-to-reach rural areas.

The agency wants community organizations and leaders to promote Census participation in rural counties where less than 50% of households have responded.

Thirty-eight percent of the nation’s 1,971 nonmetropolitan counties have a response rate under 50%, according to Census data that the Daily Yonder accessed July 29.

Only 9% of metropolitan counties have a response rate below 50%.

Nationally, 62.8% of households have responded to the Census. Only a quarter of nonmetropolitan counties have met or exceeded that response rate, while more than half of metropolitan counties have.

The map compares metropolitan and nonmetropolitan counties to the national response rate.

Rural households face special challenges this year in completing their Census form. Census field staff were in the first stages of hand-delivering forms to people who do not receive mail at home when the field work was suspended because of Covid-19. The Census is now running on an amended calendar.

Another wrinkle is the digital divide – the disproportionate lack of broadband in rural areas. Households may file their Census response online this year. While there are also mail and telephone options (844-330-2020), the push for online participation may put some rural families at a disadvantage. The promotional campaigns to encourage families to file their Census forms also rely heavily on digital formats.

The constitutionally mandated Census determines funding levels for numerous government programs and directly affects congressional apportionment and the Electoral College. The Census website includes examples of how the population count can affect community programs in education, healthcare, hospital funding, and more.

Census workers are scheduled to begin door-to-door canvassing for Census responses on August 11.