Census 2020: NRFU/Total response rates; final mailing to low response rate tracts


 Updates for the Census 2020 Hard to Count/Response Rate map

2020 Census Total Response Rates Added to the Map; Tracts Receiving a 7th Mailing Also Highlighted

The Census Bureau is reporting “total response rates” by state and for the nation overall, and we have added that information to our HTC/Response Rate map.

These overall rates combine self-response rates (households that have filled out the census form on their own) and “nonresponse followup” (NRFU) rates (housing units that are visited by census takers in-person). NRFU rates include households that are counted in-person, households that are counted using “proxies” (someone other than the household’s residents) or administrative records, as well as housing units that are deemed vacant or otherwise not habitable.

Therefore, the total rates provide a measure of how much of the nation’s and each state’s housing units have been counted, and how much work is left for the Census Bureau to visit the remaining share of housing units before September 30, the new enumeration deadline for the 2020 Census.

The map below shows the state-by-state pattern of total response rates as of August 27.

The online HTC/Response Rate map also displays this information, on the interactive map itself (see the legend at the map), and as statistics for the nation and for each state. The list below describes each of the response rate stats shown at the map, highlighted in the numbered screenshot below from the map’s left-hand information panel:

  1. self-response before NRFU began
  2. self-response increase since NRFU began
  3. the latest overall self-response rate
  4. share of housing units completed (enumerated or otherwise resolved) via NRFU
  5. total response rate (self-response + NRFU)
  6. the map still shows the 2010 self-response rate for comparison, displayed above the trendline graph of daily self-response rates.

The Census Bureau is publishing NRFU and total response rates every day, but only at the state level and nationwide. Census experts are concerned that state-level response rates do not provide enough information for local census stakeholders to evaluate how well the count is going in each community. If the Census Bureau provides these rates for areas smaller than states, we look forward to adding that information to our map, as well.

It’s important to remember that while total response rates provide one measure of census progress, on their own these rates do not tell us anything about the quality or accuracy of the count. In other words, the rates themselves do not indicate whether all or only some people in each household were counted, whether households were counted in-person or via proxy or using administrative records, or whether units were deemed vacant even if people were living there.

7th Mailing

The Census Bureau is sending another mailing to selected households across the country, expected to arrive in mailboxes by mid-September. The mailing will include a 2020 Census paper questionnaire, and is intended to prompt householders to fill out the form on their own, even during the door-knocking operation (self-response is still a priority as the count continues!).

We have added a new feature at the map to show where this 7th mailing will arrive. The Bureau plans to send the mailing to non-responding households in census tracts that originally had received an “internet first” mailing in March (in other words, these households did not originally receive a paper questionnaire), and if the census tract had a self-response rate in late July of less than 65%.

In some areas such as New York City, these tracts are extensive, as the screenshot below illustrates (though you can see below that the mailing will not be going to some areas that still have low response rates, because these tracts had already received the paper questionnaire by mail in March).

In other areas such as Iowa, the pattern of tracts where households will receive this 7th mailing are not as concentrated.

As always, we encourage and appreciate feedback about these new featuresPlease let us know if you’re able to put this information to use, and if we can improve the map for your work. Thanks!

Links to earlier updates

Make sure to follow us on Twitter at @Census2020Map !

The HTC 2020 map is a work in progress. Other recent updates and enhancements are described here:

  • August 11, 2020: Census self-response analysis leading into door-knocking follow-up; 8 million more homes need to be visited compared with 2010 in a shorter timeframe.
  • August 5, 2020: Online maps pinpoint areas at greatest risk of a rushed 2020 Census.
  • July 24, 2020: Door-knocking enumeration begins in selected areas; our map shows where and what to expect. Also updates on latest response rate analysis & recent online census self-response highlights.
  • July 15, 2020: New “Data Trends” feature added to the mapping site, with dynamic trendlines & animated map of response rate trajectories. Estimated response rates by state legislative district also added to the map.
  • June 25, 2020: Dynamic new metric to tract response rates at the tract, city, & county levels. Examples of other resources analyzing the latest 2020 Census self-response rates, and our latest analysis of the nation’s response rate trends.
  • May 27, 2020: Update/Leave operations have resumed in 42 states & Puerto Rico; rates are increasing slowly nationwide but bright spots highlight importance of census outreach to continue to boost response; tracts with lowest response rates are very different than tracts with highest rates.
  • May 14, 2020: New map search feature for Area Census Offices (where the Update/Leave operation is resuming), our latest self-response rate analysis (Week7), & links to other projects analyzing self-response rates.
  • May 6, 2020: News about where the Update/Leave operation is resuming, and our latest self-response rate analyses (Weeks 4, 5, & 6).
  • April 13, 2020: Week 3 Response Rate Analysis; Trendlines Added to the Map.
  • April 7, 2020: Week 2 Response Rate analysis; Tribal Lands added to the map.
  • April 3, 2020: Census 2020 HTC map news: “Census Day” Self-Response Bump; Data Q&A.
  • March 31, 2020: Week 1 Response Rate analysis.
  • March 23, 2020: Update on mapping self-response rates, with emphasis on the 2020 progress bar that fills in daily after the latest rates are published, easy share/embed options for your map, and some notes on the data.
  • March 19 2020: In a joint statement with our colleagues at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR), we highlighted the importance of a fair and accurate 2020 Census as the coronavirus challenges grow, and lifted up the resources available at our HTC 2020 map to help inspire Americans to fill out the 2020 Census form on their own. Self-responding helps ensure that the Census Bureau collects reliable data about the nation’s population. And self-responding is a way to practice social distancing because it avoids a knock at your door later on from a census taker.
  • March 2020: The HTC map is now focused on census self-response rates. All the former info at the map is still there. But now that census mailings are going out, the map has been updated to reflect 2010 response rates in anticipation of integrating 2020 real-time rates after March 20. NB: the map not only displays response rates for each state, county, and tract, but also include a bar chart in the map’s left-hand panel that shows the 2010 rate (and 2000, for historical context) for now. The 2020 column in the bar chart is empty, but it will start to go up after March 20. How quickly and how far it rises depends on local census stakeholders!
  • February 2020: New data on the risk of undercounting young children, in collaboration with the Population Reference Bureau. For more info, visit PRB’s website.
  • January 2020: To help promote the official start of the 2020 Census in Alaska, we added a special “It Starts Here” (in Toksook Bay, AK) graphic on the map. Updates in January also included new 2014-2018 population estimates for tracts, counties, states, legislative districts, and more.
  • December 2019: New advanced tract search feature, statewide maps of Census Bureau contact strategies, and more.
  • November 2019: Comprehensive information for all 2020 Census contact techniques combined in one place at the HTC 2020 map, so census stakeholders can more easily inform local residents about what to expect when the 2020 decennial census takes place. Also see the CUNY Center for Urban Research website for a state-by-state analysis.
  • October 2019: Updates to TEA designations; the latest examples of groups using the HTC map across the country; enhancing the HTC metrics with the Census Bureau’s “low response score”, the Urban Institute’s projections of undercount by state; & more.
  • August 2019: In-Field Address Canvassing areas & stats on the map; organizations that are using the HTC map for local grant assistance; new examples of linking to and/or embedding the HTC map.
  • July 2019: new feature to highlight tracts based on share of households without internet access; a list of other census maps nationwide, and more.
  • June 2019: Census contacts by state/county; census tract search feature.
  • April 2019: customized printing, data downloads, and more.
  • March 2019: mapping Type of Enumeration Areas (TEA) and Area Census Offices (ACOs)
  • January 2019: new ACS data for the 2013-17 period (including internet access), new legislative info, public library locations, and tribal lands added to the map.

If you haven’t signed up for our HTC 2020 map updates, please do so here.

We look forward to hearing your suggestions for improving the map. Please contact the Mapping Service at the CUNY Graduate Center with your feedback.


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