It was an honor and a privilege to speak to a group of concerned Garfield County residents last week about the United State Census and the impact this 2020 count will likely have on our state. The good news for Garfield County is it was one of the better performing communities across the state, with a 2010 census response rate of approximately 73 percent. That compares favorably to Oklahoma’s overall response rate of 68 percent, and just below the national rate of 74 percent.
Based on the latest census estimates (for the 2013-2017 period), 3,786,725 people lived in 1,468,971 households in Oklahoma, and 109,526 people lived in group quarters, for a total population of 3,896,251. Finding those people and verifying those population estimates, however, will be challenging. Roughly one-third of Oklahoma’s population lives in “hard-to-count neighborhoods” with traditionally low response rates to census questionnaires. The Urban Institute, a Washington, DC-based thinktank, estimates that as many as 37,600 Oklahoma residents may be undercounted in 2020 without a coordinated effort to generate a better response rate. That number is important, because it directly correlates with the amount of federal funding Oklahoma will receive in the immediate future.
Luckily, doing your part and filling out a census questionnaire is easier than ever. This year there will only be a short form with ten questions per household. In addition, for the first time in history, Americans can submit their information over the Internet (as well as via traditional mail or over the phone). To reduce costs, the Census Bureau will be urging most households to submit their census responses online. Of concern, however, are the estimated 23 percent of Oklahoma's households with either no home internet or dial up-only. If you are one of these households, consider using your local public library, which most likely offers a free internet connection.
If Oklahoma has a strong census count, then we may be in line to add another seat to our U.S. House delegation, possibly taking from a state like California. A count also ensures we maximize our return on dollars covering federal programs provided through the US Census count. Some of the federal programs that rely on census data to direct spending are listed below.
Top 10 Programs that Rely on Census Data (in billions)
• Medicaid $311.8;
• Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program $71.0;
• Medicare Part B $70.3;
• Highway Planning and Construction $38.5;
• Federal Pell Grant Program $29.9;
• National School Lunch Program $18.9;
• Temporary Assistance for Needy Families $17.2;
• Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers $15.8;
• Title 1 Grants to Local Education Agencies $14.3; and
• Special Education Grants to States $11.4.
By providing an accurate count, these dollars, which are divided proportionally by population, will cover hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans and help keep our own state tax dollars at a lower rate overall. Please do your part, as Garfield County is doing, to help raise awareness and encourage your neighbors to fill out the 2020 Census, starting next March!