Wednesday, September 20, 2000

Census response rate down

City, county still in line with nation

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Fewer residents of Hamilton County and Cincinnati returned their 2000 Census forms than 10 years ago, showing some of the sharpest declines among the nation's 100 largest counties and cities.

        But county and city officials say the response rates — 70 percent in Hamilton County and 61 percent for the city — were still in line with the national average, even though the Census Bureau had encouraged state and local officials to boost participation.

        Any concern about undercounts are premature, the officials say, because the response rates released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau do not include data collected by door-to-door surveyors — and that data has yet to be calculated.

        An undercount can mean less federal and state aid, which is frequently granted on a per capita basis.

        It also can affect the way legislative district lines are drawn.

        “Everyone is always concerned about undercounts; but, right now, it's too soon to say,” said Steve Sievers, a planner with the Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission and a member of Hamilton County's Complete Count Committee.

        While local participation slipped, the national average of residents who returned their 2000 Census forms via mail or Internet was 67 percent — up 2 percentage points from 1990.

        That reversed a long slide in initial participation in the official national head count.

        According to the census, the 70 percent of Hamilton County residents who returned their 2000 forms via mail was down 5 percentage points from 1990.

        Cincinnati was down 6 percentage points in 2000. “We are still among the highest returns compared with others,” Mr. Sievers said. “If you can get 70 percent of the population to do anything, that's pretty good.”

        Dev Saggar, a Cincinnati city planner, agreed. “This is not a complete story,” he said.

       The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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