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Cornell Program on Applied Demographics

Census 2020: What State and Local governments need to Know


Hard to count population and Planning Database

Hard to Count populations

In 2010 79.3% of the households mailed back the questionnaires they received in the mail. This percentage varied greatly from place to place and it is important to know what the characterics are of the people in those places that have low response rates. Among the characteristics related to response rates: Owner/renter, age 18-24 and female head of household, no husband present. To reach out to the communites with a likely low response it is also important to communicate in a language they understand.

A National Advisory Committee (NAC) Working Group on Hard to Count Population published a report that highlights some of the groups that are less likely to respond to the Census.

Planning Database

The Planning Database (PDB) assembles a range of housing, demographic, socioeconomic, and census operational data that can be used for survey and census planning. Data are provided at both the census block group and the tract levels of geography. One of its intended uses us identifying areas where special outreach and promotion efforts could be considered.

The Planning Database uses selected Census and selected American Community Survey (ACS) estimates. In addition to variables extracted from the census and ACS databases, operational variables include the 2010 Census Mail Return Rate and a modeled Low Response Score for each block group and tract. The low response score identifies census block groups and tracts whose characteristics predict low census mail return rates and are highly correlated (negatively) with census and survey participation.

Link to the latest version of the Planning Database

Map of Low Response Score by tract from the 2016 Planning Database

The Low Response Score is a score predicting that a block group will produce a low mail return rate.

Last modified: February 2, 2018