Michigan’s census response high, but undercount fears loom

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan is tied for the nation’s seventh-best self-response rate to the 2020 census after a $16 million education campaign, but officials fear that some communities will be undercounted and lose money tied to the once-a-decade effort.

Leaders of Michigan’s “Be Counted” campaign spoke Tuesday about the challenges and successes of completing the census, which impacts federal funding for schools, road repairs and other public programs.

Vulnerable populations, including minorities, people with poor internet access and immigrants, are at risk of not being counted, officials said, which is why the state partnered with nonprofits groups to reach more communities.

“We are deeply concerned that numerators will not have sufficient time to ensure that Michigan’s most vulnerable communities are fully counted,” state demographer Eric Guthrie said. “We are confident that Michigan’s wealthiest areas will be fully represented in the 2020 census. However, there is a distinct possibility that Michigan’s low-income communities will be shortchanged for the next decade.”

Though Michigan is tied for seventh in self-response, it is 34th in total number of households counted.

The state estimates that 20,000 households — approximately 50,000 residents — still have not been counted as the Oct. 31 deadline gets closer. Michigan could lose out on nearly $1.5 billion of federal money for the next 10 years.

This is the first time that the U.S. Census Bureau is encouraging people to fill out the census online, though it still can be done over the phone or by mail.

The “Be Counted” campaign is using advertisements to inform people about the importance of the census as well as knocking on doors in communities with limited access to the internet.

The state currently has a 71.1% self-response rate but estimates that northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula have some of the lowest rates, the worst being Lake County at 27.4%. The self-response rate for the entire U.P. is 57.2%.

Lower Michigan is performing better in self-reporting. Livingston County ranks 15th in the nation at 82.4%.


Anna Liz Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.