2020 Census: Minnesota leads nation, but local counties fall behind
The U.S. Census determines how Congressional seats are distributed proportional to population. As such, Minnesota — which barely eked out its eighth House seat in 2010 — has federal representation and funding on the line.
While the specter of the coronavirus continues to overshadow the nation, the 2020 U.S. Census is in full swing — with the Census Bureau implementing higher rates of compensation for census takers and extending the response deadline to the end of October in order to facilitate a larger and clearer picture of the United States’ population.
Much is at stake for the state of Minnesota, which was awarded one of the last Congressional seats — the state’s eighth — after the 2010 Census, while bureau representatives note Minnesota is in the same situation as before, with federal representation and funding on the line. Minnesota is leading the nation in self-response rates at 71%, while the national average sits at 61.5%. This compares favorably to 2010, when Minnesota also led the nation with a self-response rate of 74.1% and the national average was 66.5%.
Census takers will be on the ground, going door to door, from Aug. 11 through Oct. 31. The bureau notes census employees will adhere to social distancing guidelines and be provided with personal protection equipment.
However, as noted by bureau representatives, including Maureen Schriner, communications specialist for the Chicago Region, and Nate Rose, chair of Crow Wing County’s Complete Count Committee, communities in central Minnesota are falling behind urban counties in the Twin Cities metro.
Not only is the Brainerd lakes area rural, with populations thinner and more isolated, but it's also a tourist destination, Schriner said, which can make it difficult for census takers to track down cabin renters from out of town. The bureau was — and still is — looking to overcome these challenges with a strong promotional campaign for the 2020 Census and its benefits, Rose said, but it’s tough sledding with COVID-19.
“Of course, COVID-19 definitely put a dampener on events we had planned,” Rose said. “A lot of the work that we thought we could do, getting people together to promote the census, got put on hold, so we’ve been mostly doing social media campaigns and getting information out digitally.”
The following are self-response rates for local counties.
Crow Wing County self-response rate: 50.1%.
Aitkin County self-response rate: 35.6%.
Mille Lacs County self-response rate: 61.3%
Morrison County self-response rate : 66.3%
Cass County self-response rate: 32.6%
“We’re trying to encourage a sort of friendly challenge to our communities within the county to respond to the census, and see if we can get up to 70% or even 80%,” Rose added.
In total, self-response rates in the 8th Congressional District are currently sitting at 56.8%, which is the worst of the state’s eight congressional districts.
Minnesota residents are strongly encouraged to take part in the 2020 U.S. Census, with three options available to self-report:
Participants in the 2020 Census can do so online by visiting 2020Census.gov .
They can self-report via phone — call 844-330-2020 — with phone lines open 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. central time, including evenings and weekends.
Or participants can submit their census report by paper. For households that have not yet responded online or by phone, they have received – or will receive – a paper form of the questionnaire.
Schriner noted the U.S. Census Bureau Office is still looking for people to apply as census takers and organizers for the coming year. The Duluth Census Office Area — which includes the Brainerd lakes area and covers the northern half of Minnesota down to the Twin Cities metro — garnered 13,290 applicants and hired between 2,120-3,310 to help.
Crow Wing County residents are invited to apply online at www.2020census.gov/jobs . Positions — such as census taker — will be compensated at $19 per hour for at least five hours of work per week.
GABRIEL LAGARDE may be reached at email@example.com or 218-855-5859. Follow at www.twitter.com/glbrddispatch .