2020 Census: Marshall County response rate among bottom three in state


An internal report compiled by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce in conjunction with the US Census Bureau showed Marshall County as the third-worst performing Oklahoma county by response rate.

The report, which is updated weekly contained data through April 13.

A deeper dive into the report showed the estimate financial impact of an undercount in the county. This financial impact is measured in millions of dollars of would-be missing federal funds. A 2% undercount would equal

$26,427,977 in lost federal funds. The number grows to $39,641,966 with a 3% undercount and it grows to

$66,069,943 if there is a 5% undercount.

The numbers are especially troubling considering Marshall County had the lowest self-response rate (41.3%) of all 77 Oklahoma counties in 2010, said Amber Freeman, capacity director of INCA Community Services.

“The Census determines how much funding and services Marshall County receives each year for the next decade,” Freeman said. “When residents aren’t counted, Marshall County’s share of funding and crucial resources is distributed elsewhere. The funding from census numbers supports critical programs across the county like schools including school meals, Head Start, senior nutrition, housing, public transportation, medical resources and clinics, community centers, SNAP/WIC and other social services, local infrastructure like road construction and repair, and so much more. These federal grants affect so much of our day-to-day life and community development.”

Freeman is part of a national complete count committee for the census as an employee of INCA. She also serves as part of a local complete count for Marshall County.

“With an undercount, you can just imagine the millions and millions lost that they can’t get back,” she said. “Between 2020 and 2030 whatever is reported is the population you get. It impacts all of the public school districts [in areas like] food, facilities, and teachers.”

“On average, for every person that goes uncounted, it’s $1,675 per person, per year, so when you times that by 10 years, that’s $16,750 per person lost for Marshall County. And when you do the math that less than 15% of the county has responded so far, that’s millions of dollars lost for our community.”

Challenges abound

McGoldrick cited other challenges faced by counties like Marshall County.

“There is a lack of broadband (internet access,” he said. “In rural areas it can be hard to get internet access. And for the first time, you can complete the census online.”

McGoldrick said he has heard of some people not receiving their census codes. He faced the same issue as others since he lives in a new housing addition in the Oklahoma City metro.

“I just clicked the forgot code and was able to complete the form,” he said. “For my family offour it ten minutes to fill out.”

Freeman said some rural residents may not have received their paper questionnaire in the mail because of nonstandard home addresses or may have already discarded it not sure of what it was.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is making the process more difficult than usual because Census workers have not been able to deliver to addresses that cannot be received by mail,” she said. “The good news is that whether you received something in the mail or not your 2020 Census can still be counted safely and easily from your home online or by phone, and there is no need to wait to complete.”

Freeman said since the Post Office does not deliver census mail to PO Boxes or rural route address, many people in rural counties are met face to face by a census worker.

“A lot of people probably haven’t received anything,” she said. “For the first time you can fill it out online. It takes about a minute per person per household. People are still gonna have trust issues. At this point they may not get one in the mail. The Census phone number is available in 30 something languages. A census worker answering in their native language.

Hispanic response sought

Freeman said a challenge the census faces in Marshall County is response from members of the. Hispanic/Latino community.

“The big thing for Marshall County we’re seeing is a worry with Hispanic community we have, with trust in government,” she said. “There were some tactics that were used that discouraged participation. There are no citizen questions. The data is protected for 72 years. People who do genealogy use the census info. It’s locked down for 72 years. They take all the aggregated data. Birthday question is asked so they can verify the math is being done correct so. They are doing projections. Only thing they are sharing is the totals for households. It cannot be shared with out agency. Protected by the Census Bureau. Take security very seriously. Still critically important cause we need to know that demographic for the community. Specificially., children cause they’re the most frequently undercounted. Effects the child for 10 years. That’s the biggest chunk of their childhood. The undercounted people are low income, children 0-5, homeless,

It ends up being a perfect storm for response rate. Not something we wanna repeat that.”

In a separate interview, Josh McGoldrick, the Oklahoma Department ofCommerce’ s chief of staff/general counsel and a member of the state’s census count committee, said there are trust issues when it comes to both the census and government at large.

“There is always a level of distrust [in the government] in the population,” he said. “While there’s not a citizen question, the possibility of one b ein g there hampered efforts.”

McGoldrick said trust issues with the government go beyond one specific population group.

“We’ve tried to engage the Latino community,” he said. “We’ve worked with the OKC Hispanic. Chamber of Commerce who created a complete count committee. They are headed up by David Castillo.”

McGoldrick said the OKC Hispanic Chamber prepared a marketing campaign that included television ads on Univision. However, the press conference announcing their efforts was scheduled the day before the state shutdown due to the coronavirus.

McGoldrick said the statewide response rate is lower than we’d like it but trending better than 2010.

“I don’t think there was a big push by the state in 2010,” he said.

To complete online go to my2020census.gov, by phone 844-330-2020 (available in many languages), or complete the paper response that was sent to your home and return it via mail.