Local census shortfall could cost us millions

By CLAY MCFERRIN,

Low local response rates from the ongoing 2020 census could mean a loss of millions of dollars in federal funding for Tallahatchie County.

Former state Sen. Giles Ward, who serves as chairman of the Mississippi Census Complete Count Committee, wrote a column last week urging more participation in the census by Magnolia State citizens.

Ward noted that in 2010, the last time the decennial census was conducted, the self-response rate of Mississippians — the rate at which they voluntarily submitted their census data before door-to-door efforts — was 61.3%.  The final count left an estimated 8.9% of state residents uncounted.

“We ended up leaving what would turn out to be approximately $13.2 billion in federal dollars driven by census data on the table,” he said.

At this point in the 2020 census, Mississippi ranks 39th in the nation with a 57% self-response rate and 51st in the nation (including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) in internet response rate, at 34.6%.

Ward said each person counted, or not, in the census means a gain or loss of about $50,000 in federal funding over 10 years, and he offered localized U.S. Census Bureau data to illustrate the potential impact.

Based on census statistics as of July 13 for counties in our area, Tallahatchie County had the worst self-response rate, at 32.3%.  It is estimated that the county’s current rate of respondents will generate over $223 million in local federal funding from 2020 to 2030.  However, based on the present undercount of 67.7% who have not responded to the census, the county would stand to lose more than $467 million in potential federal financial benefits over the period.

Sunflower (56.3%), Panola (55.2%), Yalobusha (54.2%), Leflore (53.9%), Grenada (53.7%), Coahoma (50.4%) and Quitman (45.1%) all have much better response rates at this point in the process.

Among cities in Tallahatchie County, Charleston has the best response rate, at 39.8%, equaling an estimated $37 million in federal funding over the next decade.  However, the present undercount of 60.2% would mean a potential loss of $56 million.

The July 13 self-response of other local towns is: Tutwiler, 28.1%; Webb, 11.6%; and Sumner, 9.9%.

This year’s census deadline is the end of October.  There are four ways to complete the census: online at my2020census.gov, by paper survey through the mail, by telephone at 1-800-923-8282 or by a Census Bureau worker contacting you in person or by phone. The census takes about 10 minutes to complete.

When officials tell us how important it is that we participate in the census, they can count the ways.