Nebraska Ranks 4th in Census Responses So Far, but Some Rural Areas Lag

July 22, 2020, 6:20 p.m. ·

(Credit: U.S. Census Bureau)

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Nebraska ranks fourth in the nation for the rate of households that have responded to the 2020 Census so far. The Census Bureau will start sending workers door-to-door in less than two weeks.

About 68% of Nebraska households have responded to the census, either online, on paper, or by phone.

Only three states have a higher response rate: Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Iowa is tied with Nebraska for fourth.

David Drozd is a research coordinator at the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

He says Upper Midwest states usually rank high for census response, partly because their populations tend to be civic-minded.

"Very 'do your duty,' very religious, very volunteering," Drozd said. "And these kinds of factors go into what dictates where the responses end up."

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Lincoln has the highest response rate for cities with a population of at least 250,000.

Other parts of the state are lagging, especially in rural areas. Eighteen counties are at least 10% below their response rate in the 2010 census.

Drozd says there’s still a lot of room for improvement statewide.

"Even within our urban areas where overall response is good, there are pockets where the hard-to-count population still has a low response rate," Drozd said.

Hard-to-count groups include college students, renters, racial and ethnic minorities, and immigrants.

Census officials look at the self-response rate closely and they want it to be as high as possible. Self-reported data is more accurate, and it saves a lot of money and time when census workers don’t have to knock on as many doors.

Nebraska’s self-response rate is about 3% lower than it was in 2010, but Drozd said there’s still time to close that gap. The Census Bureau is sending out one final reminder by mail this week.