QUINCY — With fewer than 50 days left to count every living person in the United States, enumerators are combing Quincy and Adams County in search of those who have yet to respond to the census.
A map, released by the U.S. Census Bureau, shows enumerators have also begun knocking on doors in Hancock, Schuyler and Brown counties. The process is yet to begin in Pike and Calhoun counties, which have some of the lowest response rates in the state.
Chuck Bevelheimer, Quincy's director of planning and development, and coordinator of the city's Complete Count Committee, said enumerators have been focusing on areas north of Quincy.
"They have been trying to identify people in transition. What I mean by that are people who are transitioning to a vacation home or to a summer campground along the river," Bevelheimer said. Enumerators will attempt to conduct a socially distanced interview with residents at each of the roughly 56 million addresses nationwide who have yet to respond to the census.
Complete Count Committee officials had initially hoped that the city and county's response rate would see a double-digit jump once enumerators began their work, but Bevelheimer said those expectations are now tempered by high vacancy rates in portions of the city.
"I think what we are going to see, based on the American Community Survey, is that there are a number of vacant homes in the city. These were homes that 10 years ago had people living in them, but now are vacant," said Bevelheimer, who added that in some of the city's neighborhoods, nearly one in four homes is vacant.
"I think it is going to be very hard for the city to see that big of a jump in our response rate," Bevelheimer said, noting the Complete Count Committee hopes to meet or exceed the 2010 response rate of 77%. The city's current response rate is 71.9%.
The census also has been affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which caused the Census Bureau to delay sending enumerators into the community for several months.
Response rates are calculated by the U.S. Census Bureau using data from the American Community Survey, which is completed before the nationwide count.
The survey, also done by the federal government, provides population estimates for each state, county and municipality based on the previous census and other data.
Data from the Census Bureau show that response rates are lagging in nearly every part of the city, including northeast of the intersection of Broadway and North 24th Street, which is down 3.5% compared to 2010. Areas southeast of Broadway and 24th Street are down nearly 2%.
The largest areas of concern are west of 12th Street, where response rates are more than 12% less than the last census response rates.
Other Adams County communities are faring better, including Ursa, which has a response rate of 80.4%, and continues to rank as one of the highest response rates in the state and country. Statewide, Ursa ranks 121st and 810th in the nation.
Other community response rates in Adams County include: Golden, 77.5%; Columbus, 72.9%; Plainville, 70.9%; Payson, 70.7%; Mendon, 70%; Camp Point, 69.9%; Loraine, 66.7%; Coatsburg, 65.9%; Liberty, 59.5%; La Prairie, 56.3%; Clayton, 55.4%; and Lima, 51.5%.
Response rates in adjoining counties to Adams County are: Hancock County, 73%; Schuyler County, 63.9%; Brown County, 64.5%; Pike County, 61.6%; and Calhoun County, 43%, which is the second-lowest response rate in the state, only besting Hardin County.
In Northeast Missouri, Marion County has the highest response rate with 67%. Other response rates in the region are: Scotland County, 62%; Pike County, 61.1%; Lewis County, 60.8%; Ralls County, 59.9%; Shelby County, 58.3%; Monroe County, 53.6%; Clark County, 53.3%; and Knox County, 50.8%.
Bevelheimer said he remains optimistic that the numbers may improve.
"I think we did a yeoman's job to put together a Complete Count Committee, to depend entirely on locals to get this done after not having a census office in the city for the first time in years," Bevelheimer said. "While we are still short of where we wanted to be, I think we have done just about everything we can and could do, including relying heavily on social media to try and get the word out about the census." Bevelheimer said he is still optimistic that the numbers may improve.
The Census Bureau is expected to complete the census by Sept. 30, a month earlier than previously reported after the federal government moved the deadline.
Between now and Sept. 30, Bevelheimer said he and other city leaders will work to continually "remind the public of how critically important the census is to a community like Quincy."
Data from the census are not only used to determine seats in the state legislature and in Congress, but also determine a state's Electoral College votes and how much money is appropriated to the state and community from the federal government.
Bevelheimer said, "Decisions about more than $675 billion in funding are made based on the census data. That is money for the roads and bridges that you drive on, for the transit system in Quincy that gets people to work, to the grocery store and to their doctor's appointment. It is money for Meals on Wheels, for schools, for health care, and for so much more. It is just so vitally important that we get as many people as possible to respond to the census."
The census can be completed online at my2020census.gov, by calling 844-330-2020 or by sending a census form to U.S. Census Bureau, National Processing Center, 1201 E. 10th St., Jeffersonville, IN 47132. The phone lines are staffed from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.