Members of the Will County Board heard about the efforts of the U.S. Census Bureau to ensure an accurate count for the 2020 census.
The county established an ad hoc complete count census committee, which met on Tuesday. It heard from census representatives about the challenges they face when getting an accurate headcount.
“It really depends based on the makeup of the community what is considered a hard-to-count demographic,” said Vinita Voss, a partnership specialist with the bureau’s Chicago regional office.
The list of populations considered difficult to count is long. It includes children younger than the age of 5, seniors, people of color, college students, millennials, homeless residents, veterans, people with disabilities, immigrants, people who are “language constrained,” farm workers, renters, refugees, snowbirds and people ages 18 to 24.
Voss used children younger than the age of 5 as an example. In the 2010 census, children in that age group were undercounted by about 1 million in the U.S. She said that there are many reasons why they, or any other group, would be undercounted.
Nationally, the participation rate in the 2010 census was 74%. In Illinois, the participation rate was 76%. In Joliet specifically, it was 77% both in 2000 and in 2010.
Still, in Will County, parts of Joliet, Crest Hill and communities in the far eastern part of the county, near University Park, were identified as hard-to-count areas, according to census data.
For example, parts of Joliet’s East Side have low response scores hovering around 30%, meaning about 30% of those living there are considered less likely to respond to the census.
The areas of Joliet with the hardest-to-count populations also have upwards of about 35% of residents living below the poverty level.
Voss used an online tool called the Response Outreach Area Mapper to show those areas’ low response scores. The numbers are based on more recent data from the census bureau’s American Communities Survey.
She emphasized that part of the census bureau’s outreach and education efforts include helping residents understand the importance of an accurate census count. The numbers are used from everything to apportioning federal funds for several programs aiding families in need to the redrawing of congressional districts.
Voss also spoke about the importance of recruiting applicants for about 3,500 jobs in Will County alone. Those interested can apply not just for jobs as enumerators, or the counters who knock on doors, but for many other jobs on the census website.