State’s High Response Rate Helps Census Stay Under Budget

The people of South Carolina deserve credit for helping save an estimated $1.6 billion in costs for the 2010 census, William W. Hatcher, regional director of the Census Bureau, said today.
Hatcher’s statement followed an announcement by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke that the decennial census would come in 22 percent under budget this year.
Locke attributed savings to several factors, including that contingency money for disasters wasn’t needed, better-than-expected productivity by field personnel and an advertising campaign targeted at “hard-to-count” populations.
About $650 million of the savings can be traced to a mail-participation rate that exceeded projections. Nationwide, 72 percent of households mailed back the census questionnaire, leaving about 47 million households to be visited by census workers.
“South Carolina’s mail participation rate of 73 percent not only exceeded the national rate,” said Hatcher, but it also was eight points higher than during the 2000 census, tied with North Carolina for the best improvement in the nation.”
The Census Bureau estimates that for every one percentage of households that mailed back a completed
form, taxpayers saved about $85 million.
“Because of the improved response rate, we were able to hire fewer door-to-door enumerators, which resulted in considerable savings,” Hatcher said. “Also, the temporary workers we hired were well-qualified and highly motivated, which we believe was a byproduct of high unemployment throughout the region.”
The five states in the Charlotte Region (Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee) showed improved mail-participation over 2000, and all surpassed the national average of 72 percent by at least one point.
“This was a pleasant surprise,” Hatcher said. “Because of declining response rates for surveys generally, many experts predicted that the mail response for the 2010 census would be much lower than it turned out.”
Hatcher also said it would be hard to overestimate the impact of Census 2010 partner organizations, which contributed volunteers, meeting space and other unpaid assistance to promote the census.
“Without the support of 23,000 partners in the Charlotte Region, we would not have been nearly as successful,” Hatcher said. “I can’t say enough about them.”
Field operations for the 2010 census are winding down. A small percentage of households may still be visited by census workers seeking to verify an address or to perform other quality assurance checks.
The final count of the U.S. population must be delivered to the President of the United States by Dec. 31. Census data is used for determining the number of seats each state is allocated in the U.S. House of Representatives as well as to allocate more than $400 billion in federal funds annually.

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