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Census 2010 Participation Rate Analysis (Week 3)

Be Counted, America! How are we doing? (Part 3)

An analysis of the first three weeks of participation in the 2010 Census


April 15, 2010

The Center for Urban Research (CUR) at the CUNY Graduate Center has analyzed the latest participation rates from the 2010 decennial census in an ongoing effort to understand which areas are not responding well and why. This week we also focus on areas that are participating substantially better than in 2000 with a new map feature that highlights the extent of improvement down to the census tract level.

On March 31 we prepared an analysis of the first week of census participation, when the nationwide rate was 50%. One week later, on April 6, the nationwide participation rate had risen to 62%. The rate rose more slowly in the third week of the Mail out/Mail back program: As of April 13 the nationwide rate was 67%. But several areas of the country are not only participating at much higher rates than the nationwide average, but have surged ahead of their participation levels in the 2000 census.

Our analysis below highlights these increases and examines whether the improvement occurred in areas that the Census Bureau had considered “hard-to-count.” The Week 3 report also updates:

  • trends between urban/non-urban areas; and
  • city-by-city tract-level correlations between participation rates and race/ethnicity.

We have introduced a new feature to our interactive Census mapping site. The maps now highlight the tracts, counties, and states that have surpassed their 2000 participation rates by at least 5% (i.e., 5 percentage points). We use red check marks to identify these “high achievers”, as the screen image below illustrates.


On April 13, this particular tract’s 2010 participation rate was 52%, almost twice its 2000 level of 29%. (Its HTC score was 93, indicating it was “very hard-to-count.”)


Our detailed findings for Week 3 can be downloaded at the link above, or by clicking here. [PDF] Our findings are summarized below.

For our analysis of earlier 2010 participation rates, click here for Week 1 and Week 2.

Key findings from Week 3 (as of April 13)

1. “High achievers” nationwide

  • More than 10% of the nation’s counties (427 of them) have exceeded their 2000 participation rate by 5 percentage points or more. Most of these are in the upper Midwest (especially Michigan and Minnesota) or the South (including North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, and Georgia). One week earlier, fewer than 200 counties had surpassed their 2000 rates.

The map below shows countywide participation rates in 2010 compared with 2000. The dark green shaded counties are ahead of their 2000 rates by 5 percentage points or more.


Click here for a PDF version of this map.

  • Nearly 10% of the nation’s tracts (6,093 of them) exceeded their 2000 participation rate by 5 percentage points or more. Many of these were in the same states as those with high-achieving counties, but other states stood out: 401 of these tracts are in New York, 285 are in Pennsylvania, and 240 are in Illinois. (Any given county may have a number of high-achieving tracts, but this may not be enough to boost the county’s participation rate above the 5% threshold.)

Below are screenshots to our website [NB: domain temporarily offline] for several major cities, emphasizing "high achieving" tracts with red check marks:


NYC Chicago
Los Angeles Baltimore
LA_highachievers_414.gif Baltimore_highachievers_414.gif
Houston Detroit
Houston_highachievers_414.gif Detroit_highachievers_414.gif
San Francisco Boston
SanFran_highachievers_414.gif Boston_highachievers_414.gif

2. High participation tracts in large cities 

  • In the nation’s largest cities, “high achieving” tracts tend to have higher hard-to-count (HTC) scores. On April 13, the 1,015 tracts in these cities with 2010 participation rates at least 5 percentage points higher than 2000 had a median HTC score of 74, compared with the other tracts in these cities that had a median HTC score of 53. According to the Census Bureau’s HTC index, tracts with HTC scores of 76 or more are considered “very hard-to-count.”
  • It is too early to know why participation in 2010 tends to be much better than 2000 in these hard-to-count neighborhoods. Possible factors include advertising campaigns targeted toward HTC areas, local community outreach efforts focused on these neighborhoods, and changing demographic characteristics. Once final participation rates and 2010 Census demographic data are published, we plan to analyze these relationships in more detail.
  • We provide a city-by-city comparison of HTC scores for these high achieving tracts and each city’s remaining tracts in the detailed analysis below.

3. Urban/Non-Urban trends

  • Census tracts in cities continue to have much lower participation rates than non-urbanized areas. The median participation rate as of April 13 in tracts located in major cities was 62%, while the median participation rate in tracts in non-urban areas was eight points higher, at 70%.

  • Generally, hard-to-count tracts continued to have lower participation rates – regardless of urban/non-urban location – than tracts with lower HTC scores.

4. Race/Ethnicity patterns in major cities

In Week 3, we examined tract-level correlations between census participation and race and ethnicity characteristics nationwide, and in the nation’s 67 largest cities (based on 2007 population estimates). Key findings include:

At the tract level nationwide, census participation continues to be correlated with race and ethnicity.

  • Neighborhoods in large cities tended to follow this pattern, though some cities exhibited stronger connections between race/ethnicity and census participation.

    • For example, in 20 large cities — including Boston, MA; Oakland, CA; St. Louis, MO; and Pittsburgh, PA — participation rates are more likely to be lower in census tracts whose Black population was larger than in other tracts, compared to what we found nationally.
  • Detroit was once again an exception, as the only major city in which the patterns of White and Black population and census participation are reversed. Participation rates in Detroit (as of April 13) tended to be lower in tracts with a greater percentage of Whites, and tended to be higher in tracts with a greater percentage of Blacks, though the statistical strength of these associations is only moderate.

  • Several cities — including Boston, MA; Milwaukee, WI; Toledo, OH; Oakland, CA; and Pittsburgh, PA — again had stronger correlations for tract-level White and Black populations and census participation.

  • In Miami, Newark, NJ, and New York City, tract-level Hispanic population concentrations continued to have the opposite relationship with census participation than the national pattern. In these three cities, participation rates tended to be higher in tracts with greater Hispanic populations. Nationally, tracts with greater Hispanic populations tended to have lower participation rates.


Detailed Week 3 analysis [PDF].


For more information, contact:

Center for Urban Research

at the Graduate Center, City University of New York

All work and materials are supported by a grant from the Hagedorn Foundation

and coordinated by the Funders Census Initiative © 2010.