We’re Number Eight!

Gretchen Wahl

BY Gretchen Wahl

May 14, 2020

Community Outreach

Illinois is beating most states in our 2020 Census response rate. How can a deep dive into the data help us understand our communities and our democracy?

We’re Number Eight! (Let’s Beat Ohio!)

Today is a golden age of readily available data, and we are swimming in it daily. Nate Silver, the statistician and founder of fivethirtyeight.com is a nerdy predictive rockstar, and casual election watchers have access to the kind of polling data that in the past was reserved for high-level campaign strategists. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are addicted to data and turn to our cities’ and states’ information websites to delve into numbers of cases, projections, and modeling.

We are in the midst of the interrupted and delayed 2020 U.S. Census, and now our census data matters more than ever. This enumeration of the country’s population that takes place every 10 years determines the distribution of political power and federal money. Census data is used to determine a state’s representation in the House of Representatives and the money each state gets from federal funding for things like healthcare, housing, education and transportation is tied to its census numbers.

In the age of COVID-19, federal funding counts more than ever.

April 1 was the official date of the 2020 Census. While the pandemic has delayed the deployment of door-to-door census workers, self-response data from mail and the internet is rolling in.

Luckily, the U.S. Census Bureau has laid it out for us. If you start at their 2020 Census Total Self-Response dashboard, you can see the National Response Rate of 57.7% (all numbers as of May 6, 2020), which Illinois is handily beating with a response rate of 62.8%. That puts Illinois in eighth place, just behind Ohio at 62.8%, and lagging first-place Minnesota at 68.1%. You can see the city and counties with the highest response rates, and search for your own.

At the city level, you can see a map of self-response by census tract. Chicago’s page shows a lower response rate (50.5%), and a disappointing pattern of response. The blue color indicating a response rate of over 50% is concentrated on the North Side and the near-suburban neighborhoods of the far Northwest and Southwest Sides, and neighborhoods with low response rates are concentrated on the South and West Sides.

How can we support at accurate 2020 Census and fair power and support for disenfranchised communities?

  • Respond to the 2020 Census yourself: If you haven’t responded yet (and you’ve depleted your Netflix watch list) no judgement! But go to 2020census.gov and do so before you read another sentence.
  • Publicize the 2020 Census on your social media channels: Use your voice to promote the census. You can also use the social media toolkit on the 2020 Census website.
  • Encourage people to work for the 2020 Census: In January, the 2020 Census raised its pay range across Illinois because of low unemployment numbers. Now, unemployment is at record highs. Go to gov/jobs to find out more.
  • Work with community leaders: Local elected and community leaders are working to dispel myths about the 2020 Census and encourage people to participate. Reach out to make sure that people know that the 2020 Census does not ask about citizen status and doesn’t share information with law enforcement, and that their participation will make a difference in their lives and the life of their community.

Keep track of the numbers, and let’s keep our communities’ numbers high.

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Gretchen Wahl

BY Gretchen Wahl

May 14, 2020

Community Outreach