Based on early returns, the census can count on Nebraska.
The U.S. Census Bureau is putting out “real-time” response rates to the 2020 U.S. Census. In the figures released Wednesday afternoon, Nebraska ranks second in percentage of households that had completed the census already.
David Drozd, a research coordinator at the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said for the first first five days, Nebraska ranked first.
“In this sixth daily release, ... Wisconsin (32.9%) overtook us (32.5%), with Minnesota (32.4%) and Iowa (32.3%) right on our heels,” Drozd said.
Drozd is a specialist in data compiling and analysis and has worked with the U.S. Census Bureau for years.
He said the figures released Wednesday were based on Tuesday’s latest totals. A good response will lead to a better, more accurate census count, Drozd said.
Census invitations arrived in mailboxes 10 to 12 days ago, so nearly a third of the state’s residents have completed them at 32.5 percent.
Madison County’s response rate is at 33%, ranking 19th out of Nebraska’s 93 counties.
Census figures are used to help the federal government decide how many dollars are allocated to a region or state for roads.
The census also determines how many free and reduced lunch rates are given to a school district. School districts that have high numbers of free and reduced meal applicants but low census numbers can run into problems. That’s because the school might have a high number of applicants for free and reduced meals, but if everyone doesn’t fill out the census, the federal government doesn’t allocate enough funds for free meals.
Immigrants are traditionally among the lowest numbers to complete census forms. Part of the reason is attributed to a distrust of government. And if they are in the country illegally, they fear that the information could be shared with law enforcement.
Jerry Hernandez of Sioux City, Iowa, was in Madison County to encourage people to complete the census earlier this year.
Hernandez, who works for the census, said just like hospitals are bound to follow HIPAA regulations, census workers cannot share individual information. If such information is shared, they risk being imprisoned for up to five years and fined hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said.
The census takers don’t care if a person is a citizen or in the country illegally. All they want is to make sure each person is counted, Hernandez said.
In addition, the census results are used to reapportion the House of Representatives and to determine how many seats each state gets. They also are used for redistricting or changing legislative lines to reflect population growth or shifts.
Even businesses use the information to determine where to open places to shop.