Rural Census Counts Low, Community Leaders Working To Increase Response Rate
The census determines many things, like the allocation of federal funds and state sales tax revenue and the drawing of state and federal election districts, which is why an accurate count is so important. Census day, April 1, was over two weeks ago, but many people, especially those in rural communities, have yet to fill it out.
Brian Carver, Community and Economic Development Director at the Bear River Association of Governments, BRAG, said this is because it’s especially difficult to obtain an accurate count in rural communities, which is why he plans on sending direct mail to Rich County residents to help ensure they are contacted.
“The Census Bureau does not deliver to post office boxes. So if you're in a rural community where the majority of residents receive their mail through a post office box, they're not going to receive any information from the Census Bureau,” Carver said.
Michael Bryant, Regional Planning Director for Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments, says a greater population of elderly, lower income or limited computer access, or language-challenged residents can lead to lower rural response. To combat this, he is trying to get creative.
“Just recently, we actually had a radio station interview and in that radio interview, I had one of my coworkers read some importances of the census in Spanish.," Bryant said. "And so hopefully we can touch some individuals that maybe only speak Spanish, they hear that on the radio and that's just one more of the little small things we're trying to do since we can't actually meet people face to face,” Bryant said.
Zach Leavitt, Regional Planner for Six County Association of Governments, hopes the counties in his region, central Utah, can obtain strong and balanced response rates. That helps maintain similar access for education, rural and community development grants and transportation funding across counties.
“If somebody wants to help ensure that the census is successful, talk about it, put it on your social media, make it so that way, people are aware, more people are aware,” said Leavitt. “I mean, like we've got national ads, we've got state ads, we got local ads, but really the most effective way is just going to be saying, Hey, have you done the census?”