Federal, Arizona officials tout census participation

Accurate count crucial for state, local funding

Posted 7/28/20

More than 92 million households — comprising 148 million individuals — have responded to the once-per-decade national census so far. But while the U.S. Census Bureau estimates a nearly 63% response rate, agency officials say their mandated goal is to reach everyone in America.

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Federal, Arizona officials tout census participation

Accurate count crucial for state, local funding

Posted

More than 92 million households — comprising 148 million individuals — have responded to the once-per-decade national census so far.

But while the U.S. Census Bureau estimates a nearly 63% response rate, agency officials say their mandated goal is to reach everyone in America.

“The current self-response rate at a national level is 62.6%. However, it is important to emphasize that the U.S. Census Bureau has a constitutional mandate to count everyone living in the United States and its territories,” Census Bureau officials told the Daily Independent in an email statement.

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, the bureau suspended its in-person outreach in March to focus on safer options, such as online, mail and phone registration.

In July, they relaunched their door-to-door follow-up, pushing the stated deadline to complete field work out to Oct. 31, according to information posted at the census website, 2020census.gov.

Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Clint Hickman represents District 4, which encompasses nearly 2,300 miles and roughly 780,000 residents in the west and northwest portions of the county.

He said getting an accurate count is crucial to securing needed funding and fair political representation for fast-growing Arizona communities.

“An accurate census means better health care, better education, and better roads in Maricopa County,” Mr. Hickman stated. “When everyone counts, we get our fair share of the federal tax dollars we already paid. Since we live in one of the fastest growing counties in the country, participation might also lead to more representation in Washington. I encourage everyone to respond to the census online, by phone, or by mail.”

Response rates 

So far, response rates statewide and across the Valley are on pace with the national effort, based to data released by the agency.

Nearly 3.2 million individuals have responded to the census, representing 59% of Arizona residents. A little more than 48% of those respondents completed the census online.

In Phoenix, 629,644 completed responses comprise 60% of the bureau’s target, with more than 50% of those gathered online.

The response rates in Pima and Maricopa counties are running neck-and-neck at 63.3% and 63.2% respectively; with Yavapai (62%), Cochise (57.9%) and Mohave (56.7%) counties rounding out the top 5.

However, the state’s rural counties are trailing far behind their more-populous neighbors.

The bottom 5 among Arizona’s counties for response rates are Gila (38.5%), Greenlee (36.6%), Navajo (28.2%), La Paz (22.1%) and Apache (16.5%).

The top 5 municipalities include Oro Valley (75.4%), Gilbert (73.4%), Sahuarita (73.3%), Kingman (72.2%) and Prescott Valley (70.6%). The bottom 5, also in rural areas, include Winkelman (23.8), Colorado City (22.6%), Hayden (21.4%), Quartzite (18.8%) and Tusayan (10.3%).

Among the states, Arizona ranks 33rd with a 59.4% response rate.

The top 5 states are Minnesota (72%), Wisconsin (69.3%), Nebraska (68.7%), Michigan (68.6%) and Iowa (68.6%); with Maine (54.5%), West Virginia (54.2%), New Mexico (52.5%), Alaska (49%) and Puerto Rico (26.9%) rounding out the bottom 5.

Important efforts

Tom Belshe, executive director of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, said an accurate count is needed especially in Arizona, where several Valley are ranked among the fastest growing in the nation.

“There are federal and state resources that are tied to population. And depending on what population your community has, you may be eligible,” Mr. Belshe said. “Specifically for state-shared revenue — that’s the revenue we receive based on our population from the state sales tax, income tax and gas taxes. All of those are related to the population funding for your cities and towns, with a large part of their budgets based on what the population of your particular community is.”

The Census Bureau in December 2019 ranked Arizona as tied with Nevada as the 2nd and 3rd fastest growing states in the country, citing an estimated 1.7% rate of increase since the 2010 count.

Only Idaho (2.1%) grew faster, based on percentage increased.

Arizona also ranked 3rd fastest based on actual population increase, adding more than 120,00 residents since the 2010 count as of July 2019.

Only Texas (367,215) and Florida (233,420) attracted more new residents over the same period.

In May 2019, the bureau reported Buckeye was the fastest-growing city by percentage in the U.S., with an 8.5% growth rate measured between July 2017 and July 2018. Phoenix ranked first in the U.S. numerically with the addition of 25,288 new residents over the same study period.

Even in areas where the population stayed the same or may have shrunk since 2010, an accurate count is still needed so those communities don’t lose any more money than necessary, Mr. Belshe said.

“In some communities across the state, even if they know they’re not growing as fast as some other areas, they need to get their count as close as possible because it will help from losing the revenue that they already have,” he said. “It’s really important, again, because so much of the state-shared revenue is tied to population.”

Beyond determining each community’s portion of federal and state pies, the census count and its accompanying demographics data are important for planning infrastructure and social services allocations, Mr. Belshe said.

“It also helps us with other things, like some of the demographic information that we get to help with planning what we do in municipalities,” he said. “It gives us economic development information; it gives us information about where to put our schools, hospitals, and all kinds of things we do as part of our planning.”

A key area where such data guides spending is in roadway construction and maintenance, which relies heavily on shared state revenues and federal programs administered by state and county officials, Mr. Belshe explained.

“For the Maricopa County Association of Governments and some of the folks that do transportation planning, it’s so important to know how many people live in certain communities to make sure those transportation dollars are coming to the state to help us keep up with freeways and not only maintenance, but new freeway improvements that we may need,” he said.

While officials at every level of government work to encourage participation, Mr. Belshe said his association is also devoted to educating the public through social media, with a focus on regular updates on its Twitter feed: @AZCities.

“We are trying to get the word out there as much as we can and we have a very robust social media program that we run,” he said. “One of the things we’ve been pushing is, you’re at home and it only takes a few minutes to do the census online. We provide detailed instructions and links to get them onto the census website and people from the towns and cities have been re-tweeting what we put out.”

He urged concern citizens to follow the League on Twitter and share the census information posted there across social media platforms.

Learn more at 2020census.gov.

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