Iowa among leaders in response to 2020 census questionnaires

The Census Bureau provides U.S. households with a number of ways to confirm the validity of a survey. (Richard B. Levine
The Census Bureau provides U.S. households with a number of ways to confirm the validity of a survey. (Richard B. Levine/Sipa USA/TNS)

Iowans have the third-highest self-response rate to the 2020 census with 66.4 percent of households already completing their questionnaires.

“Iowa is doing great ... really well,” John Cook of the U.S. Census Bureau told the Iowa Complete Count Committee on Monday.

Iowa’s self-response rate is running ahead of the national response rate of 59.5 percent, and 98 of the state’s 99 counties have a response rate of at least 50 percent.

Iowa is “jostling” with Minnesota (69.5 percent), Wisconsin (66.9 percent), Michigan (66.2 percent), Nebraska (66.0 percent) and Illinois (64.5 percent), Cook said.

“We’ve got a Big Ten matchup going here,” said Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, who leads the committee and noted his home county of Sioux is leading the state with a 73.7 percent self-response rate.

In 2010, the final self-response rate for Iowa was 71 percent, according to the Census Bureau. This year is the first time households can complete the census questionnaire online.

Count slowed by the coronavirus; deadline extended

The census count has been slowed by the coronavirus pandemic. Field operations were shut down in mid-March, shortly after the committee last met and shortly after the first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Iowa. The Des Moines office is beginning to reopen this week, Cook said.

Because of the coronavirus, the bureau has pushed back its deadline for completing the 2020 count from the end of July to the end of October.


“The census impacts so much of everyday life, especially emergency situations like coronavirus,” Gregg said. “The delay gives us an opportunity to drive up Iowa’s initial response rate.”

Census determines number of House seats, apportionment of funds

Mandated by the Constitution, the decennial census is used to determine how many seats each state will get in the U.S. House of Representatives. Iowa is expected to retain its four congressional seats. The number also is used to apportion funding for numerous federal programs.

In Iowa, that’s about $9 billion in federal funds channeled through various programs, including food stamps and housing programs, Gregg said.

A friendly competition to increase response rates

While praising Iowans’ response, Maureen Schriner of the Census Bureau reminded the committee that the third of Iowans left to count will be the hardest to reach. Including them in the count will take the participation of census partners, such as cities and various non-governmental organizations.

The Census Bureau team presented a friendly competition for communities to increase their response rates. Cities of 5,000 people or fewer are challenged to get to a 100 percent response rate. The goal for communities of 5,001 to 50,000 is to top their 2010 response rate by 5 percent. And cities of 50,001 and more have a goal of simply topping their 2010 response rate.

How Linn and Johnson counties fare

Linn County has one of the leading response rates in Iowa — 70.4 percent. Johnson County is at 67.2 percent. County response rates can be found here.

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