Background 

An accurate Census count is important for NC 

The U.S. Census is used to determine the number of seats each state has in the US House of Representatives and for redistricting at the national, state, and local level. Census data is also used to allocate almost a trillion dollars in federal aid to states and localities, and informs policymakers and economic development leaders so that they can be effective in planning and placing services for growing and changing populations.  

But achieving a complete and accurate count is not simple. In 2010, just over three of every four North Carolina households mailed back their census forms (76%), a seven percentage point increase in mail participation compared to 2000 (69%). Higher participation rates reduce the overall costs of conducting the census. And, when individuals self-respond, the data is more accurate. An inaccurate count paints a distorted picture of the make-up of our communities and will result in a misallocation of resources for North Carolina. 

To help North Carolina achieve a complete and accurate census count, Carolina Demography worked with the NC Counts Coalition to create a map that identifies communities across the state that are most at-risk of being undercounted in the 2020 Census. 

“Stakeholders and partners were asking for user-friendly maps to better target outreach to hard to count populations. And we needed more information on hard-to-count communities in North Carolina to determine where we will place our resources and target our outreach efforts.”

  • Stacey Carless, Executive Director, NC Counts Coalition 

Approach 

Mapping hard-to-count communities 

Historically, certain population groups, referred to as “hard-to-count” populations or communities, have not been fully counted and represented in the Census count. North Carolina’s hard-to-count communities include: 

  • Young children under age 5 
  • Hispanic or Latino individuals 
  • American Indian/Alaska Native individuals 
  • Black or African American individuals 
  • Frequent movers 
  • Renters 

Analyzing past Decennial Census participation rates can be helpful to communities in planning outreach to the populations that may have previously had a low participation rate. 

We created an interactive tool based on low-response scores and 2010 response rates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 Planning Database and the most up-to-date community characteristics from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 5-Year American Community Survey. The tool also provides reasons why certain populations may be hard to reach or count. 

NC Counts is using the map to better target their outreach efforts and to provide a better understanding of hard-to-count communities in NC. 

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