With a Sept. 30 response deadline approaching, most Southwest Minneapolis residents have completed the U.S. census, though response rates are below the city and state averages in Whittier and Uptown.
The census, the federal government’s decennial count of all people living in the U.S., has broad national implications, guiding the redrawing of local, state and federal legislative districts and the apportionment of Congressional seats.
Since the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency, it has been mired in political controversy, first because of a proposed citizenship question and more recently because of an executive order that undocumented residents be excluded from the count for the purpose of apportionment.
The Trump Administration has also cut short counting efforts by a month and backed away from plans to extend the count to April 30 from Dec. 31 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a decision that four former Census Bureau leaders said will result in incomplete results.
While Minnesota leads the nation with its Census-response rate of 72.9%, Minneapolis has a slightly lower response rate of 71.1%. Response rates have been higher in whiter and more affluent areas of South Minneapolis and lower in neighborhoods with higher concentrations of renters, people in poverty and people of color, such as North Minneapolis and Cedar-Riverside.
They also are low in the census tracts near the University of Minnesota, which saw thousands of college students move out this past spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Southwest Minneapolis, census tracts covering the Bryn Mawr neighborhood and six neighborhoods south of Bde Maka Ska have response rates above 85%. Two census tracts south of Lake Harriet have response rates above 90%.
Eight census tracts around Uptown and covering all or parts of the Lyndale, Whittier and Stevens Square neighborhoods have response rates below 65%. The lowest response rate in Southwest Minneapolis, 54%, is from a census tract in Whittier next to Interstate 35W.
While residents are still encouraged to complete the census on their own, census workers are being sent out across the country to track down all households that have not yet filled out the form.
Workers will visit a household up to six times, at which point they’ll try to glean information about a household through people who live or work around it — such as neighbors or mail carriers.
“By not responding to the census, it doesn’t stop the census from trying to get that information from you,” said Andrew Virden, the state of Minnesota’s director of census operation and engagement.
Virden said census records are kept private for 72 years and that census workers are legally prohibited from sharing with authorities any information collected from households.
He said that college students should be counted at the address at which they would have been living if not for the pandemic.
In Hennepin County, text-messaging and postcard campaigns are aiming to reach people living in low-response neighborhoods, Virden said. The state has made 200,000 phone calls to registered voters who live in low-response areas, getting commitments from over 3,725 households to complete the form.
More information on the census is at census.gov.