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Census Bureau Shortens Deadline from Oct. 31 to Sept. 30, Sounding Alarm for Mississippi

Jackson, Mississippi August 5, 2020 – Mississippi had a 61.3% self-response rate in the 2010 census. The door-to-door census operation helped that number rise to 91.1% enumeration, but it was still one of the lowest in the nation. Ten years later in 2020, Mississippi had a chance to exceed the 2010 number and bring billions of dollars more to the state in spite of the pandemic. 

Now, 31 critical days have been removed from the timeline needed to improve self-response and conduct non-response follow up (NRFU). This week on Monday, August 3, the United States Census Bureau made a surprise announcement that they will shorten the census deadline by one month, from Oct. 31 to Sept. 30 – a 38% decrease in the number of days.

The Census Bureau has said that this decision was made in order to expedite the process of data collection to meet an end-of-year deadline, but that one month could mean billions of dollars to Mississippi.

“This is a decision that hurts states like Mississippi more than others,” said Dr. John Green, Senior Research Associate with the Center for Population Studies at the University of Mississippi and Vice-Chair of the Mississippi Complete Count Committee. “We feel this action needs to be re-considered. It will only lead to a grossly miscalculated undercount for our state’s population, leading to long-term problems over the next 10 years, such as underfunding, how many representatives our state will receive for Congress, and more.” 

According to Green, states like Mississippi that have a higher percentage of hard-to-count areas and populations, both of which benefit from in-person follow-up. The Census Bureau had planned to have bureau employees knock on doors to follow-up with people who have not responded to the census beginning August 11 through October 31. 

He added that in-person census counts through field operations are of particular importance to the state of Mississippi.

“While the 2020 census marked the first time a questionnaire could be completed online, our low level of broadband internet subscriptions has negatively impacted us, with the 2018 five-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey revealing that Mississippi had the lowest internet rates in the country,” said Green. “Even though major efforts have been made recently to improve our internet infrastructure, an undercount in the decennial census will put us at a relative disadvantage for years to come, setting us even further behind.”

Former State Senator Giles Ward, chairman of the Mississippi Complete Count Committee, has been traveling the state both in person and via Zoom to speak to as many people as possible about the census. 

“The high levels of poverty that persist in our state, coupled with education, health, and infrastructure needs that we would face in ‘normal times,’ are now exacerbated by a public health crisis,” said Ward.  “A pandemic-related low response to the 2020 census will impact us for the next decade, as well as subsequent decades. We won’t just be at a disadvantage to respond to the damages caused by COVID-19, we’ll be at a disadvantage to address issues that our state has been facing for years.” 

This is why, according to Ward and Green, Mississippi can’t afford to lose a month of non-response follow up. The committee is urging every Mississippian to write or call their members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to push to get this critical month added back to the census timeline. 

“Mississippians have been attempting to improve our state’s quality of life and wellbeing for years, so we cannot afford to face under-representation, under-funding, and under-development now when we need it most,” said Ward. “Regardless of what happens with the deadline, we owe it to ourselves and our fellow Mississippians to encourage anyone we know to complete the census online or by phone as soon as possible. Information can be found at  mscensus2020.org.

Visit mscensus2020.org to see current response rates and to learn more about the Mississippi census.

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