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Local response rates to U.S. Census vary

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Posted on April 22, 2010 |
By Andy Kirkaldy



ADDISON COUNTY — With the official deadline for U.S. residents to mail in their Census form — April 16 — passed, Addison County as of Monday stood right at the Vermont average for compliance, 65 percent.

That average also equals Vermont’s 2000 rate of mail-in participation of 65 percent, although the nation as a whole lagged the 2000 compliance number, 72-71 percent, as of Wednesday. The U.S. Census Bureau will update those figures through Friday, and the 2010 national rate could still equal that of 2000.

Vermont residents who failed to take the estimated 10 minutes to fill out the form can probably expect a knock on their door from a Census worker in May or June, according to Census officials in Vermont, although there is a chance it’s not too late.

Vermont Census manager Mike Cutting said residents should still fill out and mail the forms in as soon as possible, but couldn’t promise those who do so after last Friday’s deadline wouldn’t have an official visitor.

“It all depends on how soon they get it in and how soon it gets processed,” Cutting said. “The sooner they get it in, the less likely (it is) they will get visited.”

If residents have mailed in their forms and still get a visit, they must answer the interview questions. Chip Sawyer, manager of the Vermont State Data Center at the University of Vermont, a Census partner, urged cooperation with the Census pavement-pounders.

“You should listen to what they have to say. They may have a couple questions ... just to be sure they have you counted,” he said.

Cutting and Sawyer both said residents need not fear they will be counted twice if they have sent in their forms and still receive a visit.

“They’re good at de-duplicating (results),” Sawyer said.

Cutting put it more formally.

“We have a process in place to make sure we only count people once,” he said.

The Census Bureau may still hire a few people to make some of the local calls, although Cutting could not say immediately how many were needed in the Addison County area.

“There’s no place in the state we have closed off completely,” he said.

Those interested in the job may call the state Census office in Williston at 802-264-0840, and be prepared for pre-employment testing and screening and then some training if they successfully get past the first steps.

As of Monday, in percentage terms fewer people in Addison County remained to be counted than in nine other Vermont counties. Grand Isle (76 percent) had the highest response rate, followed by Chittenden (74 percent), Franklin (70 percent) and Rutland, at 66 percent just 1 percent ahead of Addison.

The lowest response rates came in the Northeast Kingdom, in Essex (44 percent) and Orleans (54 percent) counties.

Within Addison County and Brandon, Bristol had the highest response rate as of Monday, at 78 percent, and Ferrisburgh the lowest, at 56 percent. (See chart for full response rates as of April 19; response rates are available online at http://2010.census.gov/take10map/ and were set to be updated daily through April 23.)

Seven other local towns joined Bristol with rates of 70 percent or higher: Brandon, Leicester, Middlebury, Monkton, Salisbury, Starksboro and Vergennes.

Ten towns had response rates between 60 and 69 percent: Addison, Bridport, Cornwall, New Haven, Orwell, Panton, Shoreham, Waltham, Weybridge and Whiting.

Five other towns had response rates lower than 60 percent: Goshen, Granville, Hancock, Lincoln and Ripton.

Sawyer said patterns were hard to see in response rates.

“It’s hard to explain what’s going on,” he said.

Still, Sawyer did note that more heavily developed counties and towns did tend to have higher rates, possibly, he said, because of higher postal delivery rates in less rural areas.

“In many towns, the Postal Service didn’t deliver forms because they were not addressed correctly,” he said. “It seems to be less likely to have a postal snafu if your town has physical addresses.”

Overall, Vermont was as of Monday one of just seven states that had met or exceeded its 2000 mail-in response rate, according to an April 19 Census press release.

The others were Alabama (66 percent), Virginia (73 percent), North Carolina (71 percent), South Carolina (70 percent), Kentucky (72 percent) and Tennessee (70 percent). Washington, D.C., (66 percent) had also equaled its 2000 mail-in rate.

Cutting said Vermont Census workers will finish visiting households by the end of June or early July. Next will come checking a “vacant-delete” property list to make sure no one has been missed, a two-to-four-week process.

Then?

“I would hope the count in Vermont would be complete sometime in August or so,” Cutting said, “and then we will go away and reappear in 10 more years.”

Reporter Andy Kirkaldy is at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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