Alachua County at 50 percent in returned census forms


Published: Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 6:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 6:59 p.m.

As of Thursday evening, half of Alachua County homes had returned their 2010 census forms.

Facts

CENSUS FORMS RETURNED

The U.S. Census Bureau provided the following data on the percentage of returned census forms.

U.S. - 54%
Florida - 51%

Area counties:
Levy - 53%
Gilcrhist - 51%
Dixie - 37%
Suwannee - 50%
Columbia - 48 %
Union - 46%
Bradford - 49%
Clay - 58%
Putnam - 54%
Marion - 59%

In the city of Gainesville only 48 percent had completed the forms so far and won't have to receive visits from census-takers at a much higher cost to taxpayers. Waldo was at only 44 percent, while Newberry, at 60 percent, and Alachua, at 58, were beating state and national percentages.

Thursday was the Census Bureau's official day to urge residents to complete the 10-question, 2010 census form and mail it back if they haven't already.

The bureau mailed or hand-delivered about 134 million 2010 Census questionnaires to households in March. So far, 52 percent have been returned nationwide. Leading the nation Thursday was South Dakota, with 64 percent returned. Bringing up the rear was Alaska with 42 percent.

The percent of census forms completed and returned during the 2000 census was 67 percent. The number grew to 72 percent after census workers also visited people's homes to ensure the forms were completed.

Census spokeswoman Earlene Dowell said they were hopeful the percent would be greater this decade.

“We're doing very well. Every day it's going up about 2 percent,” Dowell said.

In Florida, the leading counties Thursday were Flagler and Sumter, both with 65 percent returns. On the other end of the scale, Dixie, Liberty and Hendry counties were in the rear with 37 percent. Alachua County had a 50 percent return rate.

Shelby Pruett, of Dunnellon, said she had heard and seen the Census Bureau's advertisements about the importance of completing the forms.

The information collected by the bureau is used to allocate electoral votes, Congressional seats and government funding.

“I felt like the government needed the information, and we've done it before,” said Pruett, 72.

“The census form was on the table only two days … before I sent it,” she said. “It's the right thing to do … and I'd rather answer the form than have somebody knocking on my door.”

On May 1, that is what the Census Bureau will begin doing. For those who don't complete and return the questionnaire, the bureau will send employees to homes to ask that the form be completed.

The cost to taxpayers to send a census worker to a home is $57, according to Dowell. When the form is mailed, it costs taxpayers .42 cents in prepaid postage.

If everyone returns the forms, taxpayers would save an estimated $1.5 billion, according to the Census Bureau.

The estimated cost to administer the census is $14.5 billion.

An estimated 48 million households are expected to not return the forms by mail. The bureau estimates hiring 650,000 workers to visit homes that didn't return forms.

The census is mandated every 10 years by the U.S. Constitution; the first one took place in 1790. Until the 1850 census, only heads of households were recorded by name.

The Census Bureau also oversees the American Community Survey, which collects additional information from citizens by sending more detailed, lengthier questionnaires to some homes. That survey is separate from the census forms sent out in March.

The Census Bureau says it does not release information about people completing the forms, expect for statistical purposes.

For the first time ever, the bureau is sending some bilingual forms to communities with large Hispanic populations.

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