By on 12.17.20 in Census 2020

The 2020 Census data collection officially ended on October 15th. In a typical year, we would expect to receive apportionment counts for the U.S. House of Representatives by December 31st and the redistricting data would be delivered by March 31, 2021. This is not a typical year: we still do not know when 2020 Census data will be released.

While we wait to find out more details on the 2020 Census release schedule, here’s what we do know about the 2020 Census and other U.S. Census Bureau data products.

How many North Carolina households self-responded to the 2020 Census?

When the 2020 Census data collection officially ended in on October 15th, 63.4% of North Carolina households had self-responded to the census, meaning they filled out the form on their own without a visit from a census worker. This was below the statewide self-response rate of 64.8% in 2010 and below the national average of 67%.

Within North Carolina, 32 of the state’s 100 counties exceeded their 2010 self-response rates.

The remainder of North Carolina’s households were counted during non-response followup (NRFU). These households could have been counted in several ways, including direct interviews, proxy respondents, and statistical imputation, a set of techniques to account for missing or incomplete data.

Which communities did not self-respond to the 2020 Census?

Self-response rates lagged in traditionally hard-to-count communities. Across North Carolina, self-response rate was lower in tracts with:

  • the highest share of young children;
  • the highest concentration of American Indian, Asian, Black, or Hispanic residents; and
  • the lowest internet access.

Lower self-response rates mean that these communities needed more counting NRFU than other communities. NRFU has a higher risk of undercount than self-response, which means that North Carolina’s traditionally hard-to-count communities are more likely to face a risk of undercount in the 2020 Census.

How can I understand the quality of the 2020 Census?

Self-response rates were a great metric to track progress in counting North Carolina households, but they are now limited in what they can tell us. Here are some of the metrics we will look at to understand participation and quality of the 2020 Census:

  • mail return rate (the share of occupied households that returned the census form)
  • how accurate and fair the 2020 count is, based on the Post-Enumeration Survey, a Census Bureau survey, conducted independently from the census, meant to evaluate the accuracy of the census.

These data will come after the 2020 Census data is released.

What other data products can help me understand population change?

The U.S. Census Bureau has two data releases during December 2020 that can help us understand population change (these are not census counts):

  • 2019 5-Year American Community Survey which contains socioeconomic characteristics of the population for all counties, municipalities, and subcounty areas such as census tracts and block groups. This is an important milestone: we now have three sets of 5-year estimates that do not overlap (2005-2009, 2010-2014, and 2015-2019), which allows us to better understand and examine trends at a local level.
  • 2020 Demographic Analysis Estimates which use current and historical vital records and other data to estimate the size of the nation’s population on April 1, 2020 (Census Day).

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