Census: 20 percent of US filled out surveys so far

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 25, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — Roughly 100 million households to go.

One week after U.S. census forms were mailed to 120 million households, about 20 percent of the nation has completed those forms and sent them back. That number puts the government on its way to matching or surpassing mail participation rates in 2000 of 72 percent, the Census Bureau said Wednesday.

The figures are part of daily data the bureau is publishing on 2010 mail-back participation for the U.S., broken down by state, county, city and zip code. Officials are hoping that state and local governments will use the data to promote friendly competitions as to who can get the best response by the end of the census mail-back period in late April.

“We’re off to a pretty good start,” said Census Bureau director Robert Groves.

The census data, available on interactive Google maps, reflect forms received as of Tuesday. Lower responses in some areas could be caused, at least partly, because parts of the U.S. may not have received their forms until late last week.

Montana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri and South Dakota ranked at the top, with participation rates of between 31-33 percent. These states have rural areas that were hand-delivered forms earlier in the month, so people there had a longer period to respond.

Broken down by city, places in Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota dominated the top 50, with Leighton in Iowa topping the list at 75 percent.

At the other end of the scale, Florida ranked at the bottom among states, with just 9 percent of households returning their form. It was followed by Washington and Alaska, each with 10 percent.

The 10-question census asks you to fill out your usual place of residence as of April 1, but the Census Bureau is encouraging people to send in their forms sooner if they already know what their location will be. The bureau will continue to accept mailed-in forms through most of April.

From May until July, it will send census-takers to each home that doesn’t reply by mail, which is more costly and sometimes leads to more inaccurate responses. The Census Bureau has estimated it would save $1.5 billion in follow-up visits if everyone who receives a census form mails it back.

The population count, conducted every 10 years, will be used to distribute U.S. House seats and more than $400 billion in federal aid.