U.S. Census Bureau
On his blog, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz tried to rally the city to increase participation in this year's Census, hoping Madison will rank "in the top 50 cities in America for participation."
The U.S. Census website shows that Madison's response rate is currently at 59%. Dubuque, Iowa, leads municipalities of 50,000 or more with a 70% response rate so far. And Wisconsin is tied with South Dakota among states at 62%; the national rate is 52%.
The Census also breaks down the response rates by neighborhood and in Madison, some neighborhoods are more enthusiastic than others. The Odana Road area has the highest response rate at 72%. The Allied Drive neighborhood has the lowest response at 39% and the Langdon Street neighborhood is 41%.
None of this is particularly surprising to Brian Grady, a city planner who is working with the city's Complete Count Committee.
"When we started this process of promoting the 2010 census about a year ago, we looked at the areas that are typically low counted," he says. The ones with low counts in this Census match the 2000 Census, he says.
"In the park street corridor, there are a lot of Hispanic folks living there that may not be legal residents of the U.S. who may have concerns about providing information," he says. "And a lot of college students might think they're getting counted back where their parents live. It maybe the first time they're filling out a census form."
And some people just have an anti-government bias: "Some people may feel uncomfortable about giving the information," says Grady adding, any personal information from the Census is not shared with any other government agencies. "People that work the census take an oath not to divulge any information."
To try to boost involvement in traditionally undercounted areas, the city set up several questionnaire assistance centers and "Be Counted" sites, where people can get replacement forms, forms in other languages and assistance filling them out. A map (PDF) of the centers is available online.
This year, the Census is also targeting traditional low areas by second form in mid-April. The form is due at the end of the month, after which Census workers will visit homes that haven't returned their form.
But this year, the Census workers will canvass college neighborhoods in mid-April, because "By the time they get out on the streets, students are already gone."