The every-10-year tally is complete and nearly every Minnesota address and housing unit was counted. Success was the story of the 2020 Census and was in the headlines back in October.
But the work isn’t done, as it turns out. A 2020 census worker just may be circling back to your doorstep or attempting to reach you by phone, beginning this month. The U.S. Census Bureau has hired temporary workers to conduct an independent survey to ensure the accuracy of last year’s counts.
Including in Duluth, the survey-takers are working to complete what’s called a “Post-Enumeration Survey.” A sampling of the population will be re-screened with a goal of determining whether anyone or any housing unit was missed or whether household changes like births or deaths occurred.
Census worker Deborah Weckert of Cloquet alerted the News Tribune of the follow-up survey last week. “We just had so much resistance by the end of 2020 with people not sure of what was going on that it would be nice to try to educate the public before we show up on their doorstep (again),” she said.
Not only does this follow-up survey ensure the accuracy of the 2020 Census, its results are to be used to inform and improve the next census. As always, all information shared will be treated as confidential, according to the information the U.S. Census Bureau provides on its web pages.
There was added doubt about an accurate census this past year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the heightened hesitancy of opening doors, especially for someone unfamiliar. That challenge was exacerbated by an 11th-hour federal decision to cut off counting a month earlier than expected.
Despite the difficulties, the nation's nearly 400,000 census employees — including 2,400 temporary census workers across St. Louis County — made contact after contact and successfully closed the gap between the 67% of addresses and housing units in the U.S. that responded on their own to the census and the 99.9% that eventually were reached. The national self-response rate in 2020 actually turned out to be an unexpected half a percentage point better than in 2010.
In Minnesota, the result was helped by our nation's-best 75.1% of housing units and addresses responding on their own. Self-responding impressively reached as high as 88.5% in census tracts within Duluth.
Participation in the census is critical to local communities. Every response means $2,796 per year in funding from D.C. for programs like student loans, food stamps, energy assistance, and highway construction. There are 55 large federal spending programs that determine, based on census figures, how much gets sent to cities like Duluth. An accurate count also means appropriate political representation, as district boundaries for elected bodies — from city council to Congress — are set according to census findings.
Ensuring the accuracy of the census can be just as important. So, if you’re contacted — or contacted again — participate. Answer the questions. And then watch for the survey results, which tentatively are scheduled to be released at the end of December. Full results are expected by March 2022.