Full census count likely in Polk County

Published 3:46 pm Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Polk County has the fourth lowest risk in the state of being undercounted in the 2010 Census, according to Democracy North Carolina.
The nonprofit ranked Polk 97th out of 100 counties. Robeson County, south of Fayetteville, had the highest risk of an undercount, followed by Duplin, Edgecombe, Scotland and Bladen counties, based on Census form return rates in 1990 and 2000 and the percentage of “hard to count” residents in each county.
The Census Bureau list of “hard to count” groups include those who lack a high-school education, live in poverty, dont speak English, live in a multi-family dwelling, rent, receive public assistance, or are unemployed.
In 2000, Polk County, mail response rate was 66 percent, just below the national average rate of 67 percent. Polk County ranked 95th in the state for its share of “hard to count” residents. By comparison, Rutherford County, which is grouped with Polk County for purposes of the Census, is ranked 49th for its share of “hard to count” residents. Rutherford County was ranked 46th overall in Democracy North Carolinas study, giving it an “elevated” risk of being undercount.
“The high risk counties are poor and exactly the ones that most need help from government programs, so their elected leaders, school officials and service providers have an extra incentive and responsibility to make a concerted effort to promote a big response to the Census,” says John Hall, director of Democracy North Carolina.
An undercount can have a significant economic impact on a county.
Hall says the federal government allocates more than $400 billion, or about $1,500 per person, annually to state and local governments based on population.
“For every 1,000 residents not counted, a county could lose $1.5 million a year for school programs, health care, job training, housing, senior centers and more,” says Hall.
The Census Bureau determined that it undercounted North Carolinas population in the 2000 Census by 1.3 percent.
Hall says a similar undercount of North Carolinas approximately 9.5 million people in the 2010 Census could cost the state more than $190 million a year or $2 billion over the next decade.
Some North Carolina counties have assigned staff to help raise awareness about the Census and encourage everyone to be counted.
“Shifting resources now will pay off handsomely for communities,” says Hall.

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