Groups that have worked to increase Orange County’s participation in the 2010 Census can now celebrate.
The county’s mail participation rate increased to 77 percent this year from 70 percent in 2000.
The national participation rate was 71 percent as of Tuesday.
The census helps determine how the federal government will distribute about $400 billion to communities.
“We’re growing. The more accurately we can reflect that growth, the more money we’re going to get,” said Kevin Morgenstein Fuerst, coordinator of student enrollment for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
After more detailed results are released, groups that promoted the census expect to learn where they can improve next time. Neighborhoods with lower participation rates can be targeted in 2020.
“A lot of groups were unreceptive to us,” junior Amy Dobrzynski said. She was a member of a team that competed in the Bateman Case Study Competition, in which students directed public relations campaigns for the U.S. Census Bureau.
“They thought the census information would be used for homeland security and against immigrants.”
Programs like Dobrzynski’s helped ensure a higher turnout.
To combat misconceptions about the census, the county formed a “Complete Count Committee” that brought together different organizations to bring awareness to their constituents.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board encouraged teachers to include the census in their curriculum and sent notices home to parents to increase participation.
UNC groups also came together to target college students, who move often and have a low response rate.
“A lot of students weren’t aware that they needed to be counted here,” Dobrzynski said. “I think we did a good job about getting the word out about that.”
Her group targeted the undergraduate population with a bar night at Players and took a similar approach with graduate students with a census trivia night at Linda’s Bar and Grill.
Beginning in May, the U.S. Census Bureau will begin sending employees door-to-door to collect information from households who did not mail their forms back.
“Everyone will be interested in seeing the results early next year to see how well local governments, states and city planners have estimated the populations,” said Tom Altieri, comprehensive planning supervisor of the Orange County Planning Department.
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