The deadline to fill out the 2020 census is quickly approaching, and according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Nevada has surpassed its 2010 census self-response rate.
In 2010, Nevadans had the choice to self-respond to the census one of two ways: over the phone or by mail. By the end of the 2010 census deadline, self-responding Nevadans accounted for roughly 61% of the response rate. Fast forward 10 years, that number is more than 65% with time to spare.
Misty Slater with the U.S. Census Bureau says their ability to adapt to the current health crisis might have had something to do with it.
“It seemed like people were flocking to the online option,” Slater said. “We had a lot of people respond online during the pandemic. To counteract the pandemic’s chaos, we did up our advertising, since people were watching more TV. We advertised more on social media. Our partners were able to brainstorm and come up with other events they could do virtually. So they would have virtual town hall meetings and workshops to get to know what the census data was about.”
Not only is Nevada excelling at its self-response rate, but census trackers have collected more than 27 percent of all responses from visits to households that did not self-respond. So if you combine the rate of self-responses and in-person home responses, Nevada’s total response rate is currently sitting at 93.7%.
Slater says this is huge for Nevada. She is a retired Air Force public affairs specialist who says not even the Air Force could have prepared her for the fast-paced tempo she undergoes working with the U.S. Census Bureau.
“It was mind-blowing to me how census data touches everybody's daily lives,” Slater said. “If you have children and they go to school, census data goes toward school lunch programs, education and where schools are going to be built. If there are new subdivisions in the area, and they know how many children are going to be coming in 5-10 years, they know that they have a need for a new school. That’s all derived by census data.”
Every decade, hundreds of billions of dollars in federal money gets divided between the country, and the total population count of each state is needed to figure out how to distribute that money.
The money will help fund local communities in a variety of ways, including programs like Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program known as SNAP. It also covers water and waste disposal systems for rural communities, road infrastructure and much more.
“You have section 8 housing vouchers,” Slater said. “Especially now, during the pandemic, this is a key time [for] our health care [and] people out of work. All of these federal programs are here to help the people in need, and right now, we have a great need. That’s why it's vitally important for everyone to respond to the census.”
The total state population counted in the census even determines how many seats the state gets in the House of Representatives.
Census trackers are still knocking on doors, and Slater says it's important to look out for census scammers. Both Elko and Clark County trackers have reported instances of people posing as census workers.
“Census takers will have a valid ID badge with their photo, the U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and expiration date,” Slater said. “Census takers will never ask you for social security number, banking information, political affiliation or citizenship status.”
You can self-respond to the 2020 census online at 2020census.gov or by phone at 844-330-2020 for English and 844-468-2020 for Spanish. You can also mail back the completed questionnaire. Nevadans have until September 30 to respond.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated slightly to add a clarifying detail related to the 27% figure of in-person responses to the census.