Every 10 years, the government counts everyone who lives in the United States — everyone. It was written into the Constitution and we’ve been doing it ever since.  It’s called the census.

The 2020 Census is special because it’s the first time you can respond online. By now, you should have received something in the mail. But if you haven’t or you lost it, don’t worry you can go here to take it.

Answer nine questions, and you’ve done your part to Make Meck Count. Why does that matter? Nancy Ross works for the County and tracks the Census response.  

She says the biggest reason the census is important is federal dollars are allocated based on population. So every person that we miss counting costs the County potentially $2,000 per year for the entire decade. “Potentially, a family a four is $80,000 we lose out on. So, it’s really important that we get as thorough an account as we can so we get our fair share of resources,” Ross said. 

Hundreds of federal programs use census information to distribute funds to healthcare, transportation, community services, schools, even air quality. (They use census data to monitor, protect and improve the air in our region.)

In 2015, North Carolina received nearly $24 billion dollars through federal programs guided by census data.

“The other important thing the Census does is it allocates the members of Congress. States like North Carolina that are gaining population can potentially get a greater share of members in Congress,” said Ross. 

Ten years ago we lost getting a new Congressional member by 15,000 people. This year we might not only get one new member of Congress, we could get two! But that all depends on the count. Our voice can be greater if we get counted.  

We’re Tracking! 

Ross tracks the response rate for Mecklenburg County every week. The MeckCounts program looks at that data and sees the areas that are responding well or lagging behind.  

“There’s a really cool website that has daily updates of the percentage of people that have responded by the nation, by states, by counties and by census tracts.” said Ross, “We want to see how we compare with the nation, and with North Carolina.  We’re falling behind 2010. It’s a nationwide problem. It’s not specific to Mecklenburg County.”  

MeckCounts Census Dashboard 6/5/20. Upper left box is a graph of census self-response rates for US, NC and Mecklenburg County. The County rate is below the US but above the state. Touchpoints box: Census Parade, Kona Ice Census Outreach continues, WSOC and Radio One campaigns continue. Low Response Neighborhoods: Harris-Houston, Hidden Valley College Downs, Montclaire South, Toddville Road, Starmount Forest, University City South, Dixie-Berryhill, Lockwood Tryon Hills, Oak Forest (27%-39.7% response rate). Bottom is a color-coded map of self-responses in Mecklenburg County.

Ross compiles a weekly dashboard. On the map you can see the response rate for every census tract in the County. The areas in blue have a response rate over 50% and the shades of beige are under 50%. We’re getting closer to matching the 2010 self-response rate of 67.3%, but of course the goal is to far exceed that rate. 

The Low Response Neighborhoods chart on the lower left corner shows the current response rate for the 12 tracts that have a less than 40% rate of response.  

“Those neighborhoods are in different places around the county. Some are the same as 2010 and some are whole new areas. We have to look at each situation differently,” said Ross.  

The touchpoints show this week’s community outreach. Those activities change from week to week.  

Help Make Everyone Count! 

"¡Todos Contamos! Everyone Counts!" written on a car window

Take a look at the low response neighborhoods. 

“Even if you don’t live in those low response neighborhoods, if you work in them, if you know people that live there, if you have any sort of connection to those low response neighborhoods–anything that you can do to encourage people to fill out the Census is greatly appreciated and benefits the whole community,” said Ross. 

Examples of how you can help: 

  • Reach out to your church  
  • Encourage a club you belong to to reach out to membership  
  • Share the word with your community network  

You Count! 

It’s easy. 

“They say for most people it’s five to ten minutes. I have a family of three right now, for our family of three it took me five minutes maybe six,” said Ross.   

It’s secure. The vast majority of people are filling out their Census questions online on the secure site.  The information collected cannot be shared for 72 years. And if someone on staff at the Census does not maintain your privacy they face fines and jail time.  

Census workers will follow up by knocking on doors. Due to COVID-19, those workers didn’t start knocking on doors until this month.  

“The pandemic has been a double-edged sword for the Census. We’ve had a lower response because of the pandemic, but we also have the benefit of having a longer time to catch every person,” said Ross. 

The Census count has been extended through the fall to October.