Census Success

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, June 20, 2010

In school, 75 percent is a C grade.

But in the 2010 Census, it’s an A-plus.

According to data on participation rates posted online by theU.S. Census Bureau, 75 percent of Lincoln County residentscompleted and returned their census forms by the April 27 deadlineon door-to-door operations. Additionally, 73 percent ofBrookhavenites got their forms turned in on time, with both countyand city beating the federal, state and regional rates.

“That’s the number we wish the whole nation would be at,” saidShirley Anderson Scott, a partnership specialist in the U.S. CensusBureau’s Jackson office, part of the Dallas Regional Office. “Whenyou’re talking about households and return rates, that’sexcellent.”

Inside the county, the residents of the southeast quadrant – anarea comprised of District One and District Three – scored thehighest participation rate with 79 percent. Those in northeastLincoln County, mostly the District Two area, had thelowest-scoring quadrant at 69 percent.

District Four’s southwest quarter of the county had a 78 percentparticipation rate, while District Five in the northwest quadrantscored 75 percent.

The two halves of Brookhaven scored close together, with thesouthern half of the city scoring a 75 percent participation rateand the northern half recording 72 percent.

Lincoln County’s 75 percent was good enough to tie for thirdplace in the state with Alcorn, Itawamba, Rankin and Winstoncounties.

Mississippi’s highest participation rate came from PrentissCounty, where the census was properly handled by 78 percent ofcitizens. The least census interest was shown by Issaquena County,which tallied a participation rate of only 36 percent.

The closest neighboring counties to Lincoln were Copiah andWalthall, where 71 percent of citizens in those counties filled outand returned their census forms. Lawrence County’s participationrate came in at 67 percent, with Pike County following at 65percent. Franklin County managed a 60 percent participation rate,while 58 percent of those in Amite County met the deadline.

Fayette County was the lowest-performing neighbor, with a 42percent completion rate.

Statewide, 72 percent of Mississippi embraced the 2010 census,beating the national average of 67 percent.

On the national level, Wisconsin saw the most participation at80 percent, with that state’s Calumet County leading at 88 percent.New Mexico, meanwhile, is ranked last in the country with a 63percent participation rate, with only 22 percent of Catron Countyresidents filling out the census.

Despite the census bureau’s intense media campaign to encourageparticipation, Anderson – who, along with her staff visitedBrookhaven numerous times before the census was mailed out -attributed Lincoln County’s high marks to good, old-fashioned wordof mouth.

“In that area, what I saw was people in the community justtalking to their neighbors, and word of mouth is the best thing. Wesaw that happening quite often in the rural areas,” she said. “InLincoln County I saw some very interested people. I was amazed in alot of the counties how anxious people were to fill it out.”

Dave Moore, a media specialist in the Dallas Regional Office,opined that Lincoln County met most of the general variables thatdetermine if census participation will be high, including an area’seducation level and higher percentage of home owners versusrenters.

The only knock against Lincoln County and Brookhaven was lack ofimprovement. Both city and county responses rates improved only 1percent over rates compiled a decade ago in the 2000 Census.

“It’s like a sliding scale,” Moore said. “But 75 percent isstill good.”

Moore said people who did not complete their census forms wouldbe getting follow-up visits from census workers until mid-July.

Faithfully answering the census is important for communitiesbecause the information is used to allocate an annual average of$400 billion in federal funding and determines the number of seatsa state fills in the U.S. House of Representatives. Mississippi’sU.S. House representation fell from five to four representativesbased on population data recorded in the 2000 Census.

While attending a statewide meeting of the MississippiAssociation of Supervisors in Tunica this week, Lincoln CountyBoard of Supervisors President Doug Moak said the board sat in onseveral workshops for county programs that were directly related topopulation.

“The census impacts so many things the county is eligible for,”he said. “It’s good to hear that Lincoln Countians are interested.I am pleasantly surprised the participation is that good.”

Brookhaven Mayor Les Bumgarner said his city’s high censusparticipation rate reflects the community’s patriotism.

“I just think we have conscientious people who understand itsimportance,” he said. “It’s a benefit for our state to make sure wemaintain our four positions in (the U.S. House). Mississippi needsas much representation as we can get.”

Bumgarner urged those who haven’t filled out their census formsto get in touch with the bureau and complete the task.

“We just need to work on getting the other 27 percent,” hesaid.