It’s last call for the US Census

The 2020 Census efforts began in January as enumerators and trainers began work in Toksook Bay, Alaska. (Photo courtesy U.S. Census Bureau)

Counting for the 2020 Census ends Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. That’s following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this week that allows the federal government to end the count early.

“The decision by the Supreme Court is really disappointing for all Alaskans,” said Gabe Layman of the Alaska Census Working Group. “The way in which the Census count was affected in Alaska was really significant. Particularly in our most remote and rural communities. And the additional time to count individuals in those communities would have made a tremendous difference to our state.”

It has been a difficult year for the count to take place. The deadline has changed several times. And the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted outreach and in-person operations, which is a big deal for places like rural Alaska.

“In light of those challenges, it makes no sense whatsoever to terminate the census operations early. If anything, the federal government should acknowledge those challenges and work exceptionally hard to do whatever it can to make up for them. And that means extending operations so they can be done thoughtfully, carefully and safely,” Layman said.

Still, Layman says Alaska did surprisingly well. As it stands, the state has a 99.9% enumeration rate. Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau all saw increases in the self-response rate from 2010. Overall, the state saw a 1% decline in self-responses from 2010 and compared to other, similar, states, Layman says that’s pretty good. Still, he says these numbers don’t tell the whole story.

“What we’re looking at here, is really a tale of two Alaskas,” he said. “When you compare how different localities performed across the state performed in this decennial census, what we see is that urban Alaska did surprisingly well. But rural and remote Alaska did not perform well at all.”

Layman says it will be critical for the Census Bureau to evaluate the undercount in those parts of the state.

Layman encourages any Alaskans who haven’t yet filled out their census to do so by the end of the day.

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