Census site visits to begin Saturday

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Census workers will start knocking on doors Saturday as part of an ongoing effort to complete the nation’s massive population count.
Households that didn’t return the 10-question form mailed to them in March will receive personal visits from the census workers.
The deadline to mail back the form was April 16, but the U.S. Census Bureau continues to receive them, said its spokeswoman Kat Smith. For that reason, it won’t yet release the final mail-participation rate.
That should come Wednesday, she said.
A mail-participation rate is the percent of forms returned by households that received them. The figure doesn’t reflect the homes whose forms were returned as “undeliverable,” according to the U.S. Census Bureau website. Returned forms, it noted, suggests a house is vacant.
It’s different from a mail-response rate, which includes all households in its number and therefore typically is lower.
Although final results still are pending, figures posted Friday show the participant rate so far has matched that of the 2000 census. In both cases, 72 percent of households that got a form returned a form.
In Mississippi, the participation rate was 67 percent a decade ago and again today.
In Northeast Mississippi, the rate so far this year is 69 percent, but a comparable figure from 10 years ago isn’t available for all counties. Only the mail-response rate is available, and it was 60 percent a decade ago.
Prentiss County has the highest rate this year with 78 percent; Benton County has the lowest with 53 percent. Lee County stood at 70 percent.
Some people didn’t return out their forms because they didn’t understand why they should, said Peggy Woods, a Tupelo census coordinator.
But “one of the biggest concerns was the fact that some people did not receive a form,” she said.
Hundreds of Northeast Mississippi residents, as well as many others nationwide, were inadvertently omitted from the massive mailing. A second form was sent in April, but many still didn’t receive it.
They still have a chance to participate when the census workers target households without a returned form.
Smith said she didn’t yet know how many workers will be needed in Northeast Mississippi but said people are getting trained this week.
The visits will last through mid July.
The census helps determine how to allocate $400 billion in federal dollars annually.
“If you want roads repaired, schools built, hospitals and senior-citizens programs, free-lunch programs, playgrounds – that’s where the money comes from,” Smith said.
In addition to helping allocate federal dollars, the census population estimates also determine how many congressional seats each state gets. Mississippi lost one of those seats – going from five to four – after the 2000 Census revealed population growth here couldn’t sustain five congressional districts.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Click video to hear audio