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Census 2010 Hard to Count mapping site

Community groups and local governments working to boost census response in historically hard-to-count neighborhoods are now able to target their efforts with a web-based, interactive mapping site developed by the City University of New York (CUNY) Mapping Service at the Center for Urban Research, CUNY Graduate Center.

The Census 2010 Hard-To-Count Interactive Map [NB: the site at is temporarily offline pending map & data updates] not only pinpoints census tracts that the U.S. Census Bureau considers difficult to enumerate, it also displays the detailed demographic and housing characteristics that the Census Bureau believes will create challenges to achieving an accurate count in certain communities. The map enables census advocates to tailor their activities and messages to address specific barriers, such as language difficulties or low educational attainment.

Key Features

The mapping tool is based on the Census Bureau’s Tract Level Planning Database, which identified 12 population and housing characteristics associated with low mail response in the 2000 census. The interactive map not only shows these characteristics within hard-to-count census tracts, it also displays tracts with low 2000 census mail return rates and high foreclosure risk.

Site users can view hard-to-count census tracts within states, counties, metro areas, cities, and Tribal lands, as well as congressional districts and ZIP Codes. Location-specific links to the Census Bureau’s web site allows users to access demographic and economic profiles of each area, including racial and ethnic composition, from either the 2000 census or American Community Survey (which replaced the census long form starting in 2005).

Once you've zoomed in to your area of interest, you can click on the map to highlight a state, county, metro area, or tract. The map then displays a popup window with detailed statistics and links to key Census resources. You can also download these statistics to access the hard-to-count data directly (in Excel and Open Document formats).

Twitter feeds, map overlays, and more

The map's "Twitter" tab displays a list of the latest Census-related tweets, and also shows them on the map. This will help Census advocates find concerned citizens, reporters, nonprofits, and other social networkers who might want to help get the word out for the 2010 Census. The tweets are filtered with either the #Census or #Census2010 hashtag. Please let us know if we’ve missed important Census-related hashtags.

You can also add overlays showing Congressional districts, ZIP Codes, tract-level maps of 2000 Census mail return rates, and recent foreclosure risk.

Stay tuned!

We're regularly updating the mapping site, adding new features, more helpful data, and planning for future enhancements.

April 2010 updates include:

  • Why did I get a 2nd Census questionnaire? The Census Bureau is sending "replacement" forms to people in census tracts that have historically low participation rates; it's a “just in case” thing. But it can be confusing. That's why we make it easy for you to find out if you live in one of these areas. Just entering your street address at The popup window will tell you if you and your neighbors will be receiving a second form. You can see how broad the “replacement mailing” coverage is in your area by clicking the “More…” tab at our site and selecting the “April 2010 Replacement Questionnaire” checkboxes. This displays the tracts on the map with gray/black shading.
  • Participation rates: you can track participation rate progress at our mapping site at the tract, county, and state levels. We include features that the Census Bureau’s Take 10 map doesn’t have, such as:
    • type in a county and highlight the tracts below a certain participation rate (you can enter whatever rate you want);
    • sort the resulting list so you can see at a glance the highest and lowest performing tracts (this also will be highlighted on the map so you can see how concentrated they are); and
    • compare the 2010 rate map with the 2000 rate map (click the “More…” tab and check the box for “Participation Rate in 2000”).

(Of course, you can also click on any spot on the map to display the latest participation rate for that area -- state, county, or tract -- depending on how close in or out you've zoomed.)

  • Participation rate analysis. The Center for Urban Research, with the Funders Census Initiative, analyzed the first week’s Census returns. We’ll be updating this regularly as the questionnaires keep coming in.


Earlier updates included:


  • Shortcut links: Zoom to the area you want, select the map layer from the legend, then click the "Link to this map" button in the upper right. That will create a link that you can copy and email, post to Twitter, add to a blog, etc.  Anyone who clicks your link will zoom to the spot you were looking at with the correct layer displayed.
  • PDF overview: This PDF two-pager [1 MB] is a good summary of the site and its capabilities for workshops, presentations, meetings, etc.

What people are saying

[NB: as of 2016, several of these links no longer work.]
Here are some quotes and links to blogs/news items with feedback about the Hard to Count mapping site: