Louisiana has 3rd worst census response rate with 2 weeks to go

Residents can still respond by mail, by phone or online

By: - September 16, 2020 6:46 am

Photo by U.S. Census Bureau

With two weeks to go until the U.S. Census Bureau ends its 2020 count, 85.4 percent of Louisiana households have been counted, leaving the state tied with Mississippi for the third worst response rate in the United States.  That ranking includes the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Across the United States, the response rate is 92.4 percent. Idaho and West Virginia lead the rankings.  In both of those states, 99.4 percent of households have been counted, and Hawaii is next with a 98.4 percent total response rate.

Alabama is at the bottom of the list with an 84.4 percent response rate followed by Montana with an 85.3 percent response rate. Then come Mississippi and Louisiana.

This year’s count is scheduled to end Sept. 30.  Residents who haven’t yet responded can mail their questionnaires in, call 844-330-2020 if they’re English speakers  or visit 2020Census.gov.  Non-English speakers can find the number to call at this link. Marilyn Stephens, assistant regional census manager in the U.S. Census Bureau’s Atlanta office, said in a recent interview with the Illuminator that 2020 is “the first census where we’re supporting 12 non-English languages online and by phone.”

Public officials and nonprofit groups continue to stress the importance of a full and complete count in Louisiana, and motorists who’ve driven the state’s highways have probably seen signs reminding them that the census helps determine how much states and local governments get for the funding of roads and bridges.

A recent press release from the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice reminds Louisianians that the census count “determines how $1.5 trillion in federal funds are distributed for things like schools, roads, healthcare, and disaster relief and recovery. Every Louisianan who goes uncounted costs the state more than $2,200. Census data is also used to determine political redistricting, which will take place next year, and only happens once every decade.”

More than 18,000 Louisianians have been living in hotels in Louisiana and Texas since they were forced out of their homes by Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm that made landfall in Cameron Parish Aug. 27. “We are sending our customer response representatives to those hotels so that they can interview  the people right there,” Stephens said when asked if those residents who hadn’t previously responded to the census could still be counted. “And also, people being told that they can still go online as well as use a toll-free number to complete their form as well. Our call centers are open from 7am to 2am everyday. So there’s a representative there waiting.”


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Jarvis DeBerry
Jarvis DeBerry

Jarvis DeBerry, former editor of the Louisiana Illuminator, spent 22 years at The Times-Picayune (and later NOLA.com) as a crime and courts reporter, an editorial writer, columnist and deputy opinions editor. He was on the team of Times-Picayune journalists awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service after that team’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the deadly flood that followed. In addition to the shared Pulitzer, DeBerry has won awards from the Louisiana Bar Association for best trial coverage and awards from the New Orleans Press Club, the Louisiana/ Mississippi Associated Press and the National Association of Black Journalists for his columns. A collection of his Times-Picayune columns, “I Feel to Believe” was published by the University of New Orleans Press in September 2020.