Alaska ranks 50th in 2020 census response rate

Face to face outreach will begin next week for those who have yet to respond to the 2020 census.
Face to face outreach will begin next week for those who have yet to respond to the 2020 census.(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Published: Aug. 6, 2020 at 6:58 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In-person outreach will begin next week for those who have yet to respond to the U.S. census. Those census takers have a lot of work to do in Alaska, as the state’s response rate ranks 50th compared to the rest of the country.

Alaska’s current response rate is at 49.6%, compared to the national average at 63.1%. Anchorage alone is right around the national average at 62.4%. The only area Alaska is beating is Puerto Rico, which is currently at 27.9%. With hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding at stake, there’s a new push to get more responses before the deadline.

“For every person that doesn’t self respond, they’re essentially cheating their community of federal funds that can be coming their way,” said Donald Bendz with the U.S. Census Bureau. “It is time for the public to perform their civic duty to step up and to fill out the census, and we’re going to go so far as to even go to your home and help you do that.”

For Alaska, it seems as though more census takers will be knocking on doors as our state falls far behind the national average. “The only entity that you’re beating is Puerto Rico,” said Bendz. “We do the count for them as well, but in terms of the 50 states, Alaska is ranked 50th.”

The coronavirus presents an added challenge as the U.S. Census Bureau shifts and shortens it’s door knocking time period, which was supposed to be wrapping up at this time. Instead, face to face outreach will begin on August 11th and end on September 30th—a month earlier than expected.

"So, with that shortened amount of time, what we're going to do is we're going to be visiting all of the households again that haven't responded," said Bendz. "So if we need to hire more people, we can, and we're in a great position to do that, especially in Alaska because we recruited heavily for a number of our different operations."

Bendz says the in-person follow-ups will be done with local health department guidelines in mind. “Every census taker that you see going door to door will have masks, they will have hand sanitizer, and it’s so important for the public to know that this door-knocking operation can be done with social distancing in mind. So imagine someone knocking on your door, stepping well beyond that six-foot barrier, to conduct a safe interview.

Face to face surveys for those who have yet to respond will start next week. Bendz says if you’re not feeling comfortable about and in-person survey, you still have time to complete the census online, by phone, or by mail by the September 30th deadline. More info can be found on the U.S. Census Bureau’s website.

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