Marylanders appear to be taking the census seriously, according to federal response rate data.
About 63.6 percent of Maryland households have responded to the census as of Monday, May 18, ahead of the national average of 59.6 percent.
“We always want to do well above the national averages [and] national rates because we want to lead and we know what it means for our communities,” said Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Maryland), who led a virtual “State of the Census” town hall Monday. “Completing the census is a civic duty that ensures our communities don’t get left behind.”
Brown hosted the town hall to not only encourage residents to participate in the decennial count, but also provide an update on the census’s impact in the 4th Congressional District he represents that include portions of Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties.
In 2010, Brown said the district recorded a 70.1 percent self-response rate. As of May 13, he said, it stood at 61.4 percent.
“So we’re behind,” he said.
According to Maryland’s Department of Planning, the response rate in Anne Arundel County ranks sixth in the state at almost 69 percent. In comparison, the Prince George’s County’s rate ranks 14th at almost 61 percent.
The census data that provides about $1.5 trillion annually in federal funding can be used for schools, roads, housing and even determine the state’s representation in Congress.
The coronavirus pandemic forced the bureau to reschedule several in-person operations such as group quarters enumeration, which will now begin July 1.
Thomas Coogan, assistant regional census manager for Maryland, said field workers are set to visit unresponsive households between Aug. 11 and the Oct. 31 deadline.
“We know that there is still plenty of hard work to do,” he said. “The Census Bureau, I’m confident, will be ready to meet that challenge.”
Meanwhile, both Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties established complete count committees to boost participation, organize virtual meetings, post signs and promote the census through social media.
Harry Freeman, who chairs the census group in Anne Arundel, said about 83,000 flyers were distributed at 40 sites where parents pick up free meals for children. Public schools are closed for the remainder of the school year.
Elizabeth Betty Hewlett, who chairs a committee in Prince George’s, said the county’s Planning Department updated about 41,000 addresses to ensure the correct households receive census forms.
“It’s an all-hands-on-deck approach,” she said.
As the novel coronavirus continues to spread in Prince George’s, which ranks number one in the state with confirmed cases, reaching “hard-to-count” areas such as low-income neighborhoods, rural communities and residential locales with those who speak limited English will become more challenging.
According to 2010 census data, Blacks and Latinos were undercounted at 2 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.
Before the pandemic hit, the Urban Institute of Southwest published a report in June 2019 that projected up to four million people could be undercounted in this year’s census.
In Maryland, the overall population that could be miscounted ranges between 28,900 to 89,800.
The report’s lead author, Diana Elliott, said in an email Monday through the institute’s spokeswoman the coronavirus could produce similar or worse undercount rates.
“With fewer people engaged and a later start to field operations and door-to-door enumeration, the hard-to-count will be missed at higher rates in the census,” she said. “In-person enumeration is the best way to count these groups.”