By on 10.9.20 in Carolina Demographics, Census 2020

As of Friday, October 9, 2020, you have until October 31, 2020 to complete the 2020 Census. This may change, however, depending up on the outcome of the administration’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. This decision may come as soon as Saturday, October 10.

At present, the Census Bureau is reporting that 99.6% of North Carolina households have been enumerated (counted). We’ve gotten a few questions regarding this number and more recent news on the 2020 Census timeline:

  • What does 99.6% enumerated mean?
  • Is October 31 an extension?
  • If most people have been counted, why do we need to make sure that census operation continues through October 31? Isn’t it nearly complete now?

What does 99.6% enumerated mean?

This reflects the total enumeration rate, meaning all households counted through self-response—in which a household member fills out the 2020 Census form online, by phone, or by mail—or counted through the non-response follow-up operation when Census Bureau workers go door-to-door). According to the October 8, 2020 report, in North Carolina:

  • 63.2% self-responded and
  • 36.5% were counted in non-response follow-up (NRFU).

The 99.6% enumerated captures the total number of housing units that responded directly or were resolved during NRFU.

Is October 31 an extension?

The 2020 Census was originally planned to end on July 31, 2020. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the U.S. Census Bureau extended the 2020 Census response deadline to October 31 and requested that Congress act to modify 2020 Census reporting deadlines. The Senate did not act on this request. In late July, the Bureau announced that the new response deadline was September 30.

In late September, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the Census Bureau must return to its October 31 deadline. This decision was upheld by the 9th Circuit court and is currently being appealed to the Supreme Court.

Doesn’t this mean most people have been counted? Why is it important that the count continue through October 31?

Only self-response rates tell us how many North Carolina households have been counted. The 36.5% of North Carolina housing units enumerated under non-response follow-up (NRFU) tells us the remainder of the housing units processed by the Bureau, but not whether (and how) they were counted.

Census workers can resolve households in NRFU in several ways:

  • Directly interview a non-responding household;
  • Use a proxy respondent, such as a neighbor, to provide information on a non-responding household;
  • Flag households as needing administrative records or statistical imputation procedures to fill in the gaps; or
  • Determine that the address is vacant or missing.

Responses collected during NRFU are less accurate and less complete than responses obtained during self-response. Additionally, we do not know how housing units counted under NRFU were resolved.

Every additional day that we have through October 31 increases the self-response of North Carolina households. We are still below our 2010 self-response rate of 64.8% and our rate is far below the national average. This low self-response rate puts North Carolina at increased risk of an undercount, jeopardizing our fair share of federal dollars for the next decade.