All Things Census


Census and Prisoners: More Action

The Delaware House of Representatives passed a bill this week that would count prisoners at their home addresses, not the places where they are incarcerated, for purposes of redistricting after the 2010 Census. Inmates who lived out of state before they were incarcerated would not be counted for redistricting purposes. The bill now goes to the state Senate.

In the past, when legislative districts were redrawn using census data, inmates have been included at their prison addresses. Some state officials and legislators say that gives disproportionate power to rural areas with large prisons. The Census Bureau announced in February that it would release detailed numbers earlier than usual to give more power to states to use 2010 Census data to exclude prisoners from being counted at their prison locations for redistricting purposes.

Legislation has been enacted in Maryland to count prisoners at their last known home addresses if they are in state or federal prisons and were state residents before they were incarcerated. According to the Prison Policy Institute, which advocates for counting prisoners at their home addresses, similar legislation has been proposed in New York and Rhode Island.


Recent Research about Census Topics

How do respondents’ answers to a Census Bureau question about their race vary depending on the type of question asked? How do response rates and costs vary depending on the data collection mode for the American Community Survey? And how might better question wording improve inaccurate responses to Census survey questions about same-sex marriage?

These and other census-related topics were among those explored in presentations at the recent annual conference of the American Association of Public Opinion Research. Abstracts of the papers are available at the AAPOR website, along with email addresses of the authors.


Books about the U.S. Census

For general readers who want to dig further into how the decennial Census has changed over the years, here is a short list of selected books that explore its past. Included are general histories of census-taking and demographic findings, memoirs of Census Bureau directors, detailed analyses of changes in race and ethnicity categories and several books about the politically charged debate over census undercounts.

The reading list was provided by Margo J. Anderson, professor of history and urban studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her own book, “The American Census: A Social History” (Yale University Press, 1988) is a thorough and well-written account of the census from colonial days through the 20th century.

In suggesting the list, Anderson wrote, “The materials listed below provide a window into a much larger literature on the history and politics of census taking, American demographic history and the political uses of the census in the United States. All of them have extensive footnotes and bibliography for the reader searching for more information. Follow their leads! The census is one of those invisible American institutions (like the Post Office) that spans our nation’s history and thus rewards the intrepid explorer with great insights about American life.”

In addition to Anderson’s reading list, the Census Bureau website includes a history section that includes overviews of questions asked through the decades, links to legislation pertaining to the Census Bureau and other material. Read more


Census Data Point to Low Hispanic GED Attainment

Among Americans who have not obtained a regular high school diploma, Hispanics are less likely than members of other major U.S. race and ethnic groups to acquire a General Educational Development (GED) credential, according to a Pew Hispanic Center analysis that is based on newly available educational attainment data from the Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey.

The relatively low level of GED attainment among Hispanics, the nation’s largest minority group, is notable because Hispanics have a much higher high school dropout rate than do blacks or whites, the analysis points out.


Electoral Participation in the 2008 Presidential Election

The Census Bureau today released a report summarizing levels of voting and voter registration in the November 2008 presidential election. Based on the November 2008 Current Population Survey Voting and Registration supplement, the Census Bureau reports that over 131 million people cast a vote in 2008, up from 126 million in 2004.

The 2008 electorate was the most diverse in U.S. history, according to a Pew Hispanic Center analysis of the same data. Nearly one-in-four voters was non-white in 2008, up from about one-in-five in 2004.


How Many Undocumented Immigrants?

The Census Bureau does not ask U.S. residents for their immigration status when they are counted in the 2010 Census or other population surveys. A major reason is that bureau officials fear it would make people reluctant to respond, despite the promise that their information is confidential.

So when numbers are cited for the size or characteristics of the undocumented immigrant population, they are estimates that are arrived at indirectly. The Wall Street Journal recently published an interesting article and a blog posting explaining the ins and outs of these estimates. Among the estimates discussed are those produced by the Pew Hispanic Center, including a 2009 report that featured estimates for states.


Analysis of Low-Responding Census Tracts

A snapshot of the lowest-responding neighborhoods in the 2010 Census shows that more than two-thirds are in cities, and they tend to be more racially or ethnically diverse than higher-responding areas. The analysis, by the Center for Urban Research at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, is based on mail participation rate data for census tracts released by the Census Bureau last week. (A summary of the analysis also is available.)

The analysis includes a look at the 9,546 census tracts (14% of the total) that had a mail participation rate of less than 60%. Census-takers are in the field now to seek responses from households from which forms were not received.

The analysis also looks at the impact of replacement questionnaire mailing to low-responding areas, and concludes that the second questionnaires had a “strong impact” in boosting the mail participation rate top 72%, which equals the response in the 2000 Census.


Latino Population by County

Updated maps of the U.S. Hispanic population by county are available on the Pew Hispanic Center website. They show population numbers, shares and growth for 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2008, using population estimates and Decennial Census data from the U.S. Census Bureau.  The county data for 1990, 2000 and 2008 also can be downloaded.


Census Response: Role of Replacement Questionnaires

The 2010 Census mail participation rate of 72% has matched the 2000 Census rate, and Census Bureau officials have released data indicating that sending replacement questionnaires to low-responding areas may have played a role. Census officials also credit aggressive outreach and advertising for boosting mail response.

According to the third page of this handout from yesterday’s news briefing, households in areas that received a single mailing returned their questionnaires at a slightly lower rate than in 2000. Areas that received replacement questionnaires, either in a targeted or blanket mailing, had mail participation rates slightly higher than in 2000. Replacement questionnaires were not sent out in the 2000 Census.

Census-takers begin knocking on doors this weekend to obtain information from households for which a questionnaire was not received.


2010 Census Participation Rate: 72%

It’s official: The 2010 Census mail participation rate has matched the 2000 rate, according to the Census Bureau.