Thursday, July 23, 2009

Get out the Count -- Census 2010

The decennial census count has major implications for reapportionment, redistricting, and funding. Groups across America are conducting outreach campaigns to ensure that everyone is counted on April 1, 2010.

The Census Bureau has developed a list of "Hard-to-Count" (HTC) census tracts based on underlying demographic and socio-economic indicators. These are the areas where community-based "get out the count" efforts should be focused. Nearly one-fifth of the population lives in hard-to-count census tracts.

For details on the HTC methodology employed by the Census Bureau, see this PDF document or this one-page summary. Source data is available from the Census Bureau in an Excel spreadsheet.

Some state agencies have web pages with maps depicting HTC tracts -- see, for example, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Indiana. You can also download PDF maps by county from the Census Bureau showing census tract boundaries via this directory.

To help in a small way, we've developed an interactive map that highlights the Hard-to-Count tracts.

To access the interactive map, click the arrow icon or text link below.

Hard-to-Count 2010 Mapper

(added recently released block group HTC scores -- see Map 2 --  11/25/09)
Source: 2010 Enhanced Planning Database

(3.5 mb --nationwide -- sorted by state and county -- 7/27/09)

(view and print from browser -- 10/17/09)

(organized by state and county for easy export -- 11/30/09)


Census tracts are displayed on the interactive map beginning at a scale of about 200 miles. Zoom the map by clicking the buttons at the top and then on the map. Click the INFO tool and then on the area of interest for demographic data from the 2000 census. HTC scores for counties and tracts are displayed near the top of the pop-up INFO window. At a scale of about five miles, the census tracts are labeled with identifying numbers.

Using the Hard-to-Count 2010 Mapper, you can zoom in for street-level detail on tracts where an accurate census count will be problematic (shaded in red). The Census Bureau defines HTC census tracts as those with a profile score of 60 or higher. The national mean score is about 33. Tracts above the mean (with a score between 33 and 60) are shaded green. Tracts shaded yellow have HTC scores below the mean average and are therefore less susceptible to a census undercount.

The Hard-to-Count 2010 Mapper initially displays a nationwide county-level map -- thematically shaded to reflect the mean average HTC score across all tracts in a county. This county average is weighted by the underlying tract populations. Census tracts generally have a population of about 4,000 persons, but the tract-level population varies significantly within and between counties.

Counties in the South, Appalachia, Rio Grande Valley, and Mountain West have the highest HTC mean average scores. Central cities everywhere have numerous HTC tracts.

Additional maps available via the drop-down menu to the left of the map image window provide block group-level detail to further refine census outreach efforts (e.g. citizenship status and Spanish speakers). For details, refer to the notes on the SocioEcon Mapper on the FairData website. All maps are based on data from the 2000 census, except for the undercount map which relies on statistically adjusted data from ACE I released by the Census Bureau in 2002.

The tri-color thematic shading for the HTC interactive map is consistent with HTC maps prepared by Southern Echo. Southern Echo has also developed an excellent Census and Redistricting 2010 Tool Kit for several states.

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) has prepared a series of reports on the undercount in the 2000 census, with a special focus on the South. These reports are especially useful for identifying cities and counties where community outreach is needed to avoid an undercount in the 2010 census.

The materials available from Southern Echo and the Southern Coalition include county-level analyses of the potential negative impact on federal grants due to a census undercount.

Also, the Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network has developed a website -- Nonprofits Count! -- with resource materials and maps to help communities mobilize for the 2010 census. The Funders' Census Initiaitve is another useful Census 2010 resource website, with links to key organizations working on census outreach.

Persons interested in joining or organizing a complete count committee for their community should call the regional census center or visit (See, for example, the Denver Complete Count Committee web page.)