You asked, we answered. On February 10, the Cougs for Census team published a blog article about Pullman’s low response rate of participation in the United States Census.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Response Outreach Area Mapper, 35.2% of Pullman residents do not participate in the U.S. Census. A normal low response score is 20%, and a low response rate of 30% or more is considered critically low.
The primary reason for the low response rate is because Pullman is home to many hard-to-reach audiences that were indicated by the Census Bureau. These audiences include college students, renters and female heads-of-households.
Let's break it down by audience:
1. College students
Washington State University currently has over 30,000 students across undergraduate and graduate programs. Students make up a large portion of residents in Pullman, and while their time in Pullman is temporary, they spend most of their year here.
According to the State of Washington’s Office of Financial Management in 2018, Whitman County had the lowest median age across the state at 24.4 years old. This is most likely due to the large proportion of students in the County. Being that most students are 18-22 years old, most current WSU students were only 8-12 years old during the last Census in 2010.
The U.S. Census has not occurred nor been mentioned in a decade, and students are having to learn about and participate in the Census for the first time this year.
With most students at WSU being from other parts of the state, country or the world, this means that most students are also renters. According to the U.S. Census Reporter, 73% of properties in Pullman are renter-occupied.
With a huge proportion of transient student renters, students are often clueless when knowing how to count themselves. Most would believe that they count under their parents as a dependent, or since they aren’t permanent residents of Pullman, they think don’t count.
That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The Census counts you depending on where you sleep most nights. Students just need to be educated on how to count themselves accurately.
3. female heads-of-households
According to the U.S. Census Reporter, five percent of households in Pullman have a female as the primary income provider. We conducted in-depth questionnaires in January to ask female heads-of-households in Pullman about their outlook on the Census, and not much is known among the audience.
When asked about their awareness of the Census and its impact, all respondents said that they have little to no knowledge about the Census.
While they had little knowledge about the Census, their involvement in the community is really high. Most respondents reported that they regularly participate in events at the Neill Public Library in Downtown, as well as farmer’s markets, the annual Lentil Festival, among others.
Some respondents also noted that they have children attending the Pullman School District, or they have children in daycare programs.
Funding for local community programs and education are fueled by the Census, and if female heads-of-households are getting their families to be involved in the community, they have an opportunity to represent themselves.
Now this is where we step in. Our campaign is dedicated to educating, motivating and empowering the Pullman community to participate in the Census. It’s time we change our response rate and become a community that is accurately represented!
Visit our ‘Why Census’ page to find out more on how you can count in the 2020 Census!
Each Washington State University student is affected by the census in a different way. While some benefits might resonate with some more than others, there's no question that everyone has a responsibility to play a part in the census and that it will affect each of us in the future.
Jenna Chandler, a criminal justice major from San Diego, California, feels connected to the census because of how the data that are collected impact the redrawing of political boundaries.
"The Pullman community is my second home. I am very grateful to have been able to experience a community so different from my own," she said.
Jenna considers herself to be a fairly politically active individual and wants the Pullman community to understand the importance of civic engagement. Jenna believes in the importance of being aware of what is going on in the community and the importance of being an active community member.
"I think that it is very important that the government understands the demographics of the communities they are intended to serve," Jenna said, "and that each community is represented properly."
Data collected by the census is used by the government to redraw congressional and legislative boundaries, as well as impacts the number of representatives each state is allocated.
As young college-aged students we are the next wave of people to be responsible for influencing the political process in the United States and it is important that we are engaged members of the community. Filling out the census is one more step we can take to be unified as a community and do our civic duty, Jenna said.
As members of a tight-knit community, each and every one of us is responsible for making sure our voices are heard. There is no denying that there is a special pride shared by Pullman residents. It is time for us to show our dedication to our community and empower each other to count ourselves properly in the 2020 Census.
When it comes to participating in the census, Pullman residents have a track record for not responding to the survey. The Census Bureau uses low response scores to track how accurately the population living within each census tract fills out the census. A normal low response score that might be cause for concern is 20%, and a low response score of 30% or more means that the area requires the critical attention of the Census Bureau. According to the Census Bureau's Response Outreach Area Mapper, Pullman belongs to a census tract with a low response score of 35.2%. This shows us that we are not providing the government with accurate information about our community.
The Census Bureau collects our data so that $675 billion in federal funding can be distributed to each community based on its needs. If we don't self report to the census, it causes the data collected about Pullman is inaccurate. This causes our community to potentially lose funding for programs that need it. Funds that are allocated based on census data go towards emergency services, schools, and mental health programs. Not only does data from the census impact funding, it is also used to redraw congressional boundaries and determine how many representatives each state gets when political boundaries are re-evaluated.
As much as we owe it to our community to fill out the census, it is also an important part of living in the United States. Participating in the Census is not only a way to show that we are active participants within our community, it is also a way to be involved in how our government sees our community.
As you prepare to complete the 2020 Census, keep in mind that you are not only providing the government with important information about our community, you are also showing that you are #PullmanProud.