As of Tuesday, the census self-response rate from households in Missouri was 60.8%, slightly higher than the national rate of 60.6% according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
In addition to determining how the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will be apportioned, the census helps decide how federal funding is distributed among the states. In 2016, Missouri received $16 billion from the government, according to John Shikles, director of census operations for Gov. Mike Parson’s administration. Also, many businesses use census data to make decisions about where they should locate and market their products and services, he added.
So far, Missouri has one of the lowest response rates among Midwest states, trailing neighbors like Kansas (64.6%), Nebraska (66.8%) and Iowa (67.3%).
Counties in Missouri that have the highest self-response rate include St. Charles County (77.3%), St. Louis County (70.9%) and Christian County (74.4%). Carter County (12%), Hickory County (12.6%) and Douglas County (18.9%) have the lowest rates. St. Charles County has one of the highest rates of any county nationwide.
Shikles said the low response rates in some counties could be attributed to their in-person census form deliveries being suspended due to COVID-19. He also said that, for reasons including insufficient broadband networks and lack of address data, those in rural counties tend to be undercounted. Shikles said low rates also could be caused by people being less willing to give information to the government because of a desire for privacy.
Due to COVID-19, the Census Bureau is extending its operation through the end October, giving people a longer period to respond. Originally, the self-response period was scheduled to end July 31.
“There’s a lot going on, but it’s still that our responses to the census affect our lives for the next 10 years. And so, it’s important to count everybody living in Missouri, even if they’re only living here temporarily,” Shikles said.
“They can go online, they can respond to the mail, they can call The Census Bureau but it’s just important that they respond because it means a lot to our communities for the next 10 years.”