With a response rate of 70 percent, the Golden State had a Golden census, Secretary of Commerce Norman Mineta announced Tuesday at a Census 2000 briefing held in the nation’s capital.
“California spent more than $24 million to advertise the census and produced a response rate which was among the highest,” said the former San Jose mayor.
Along with Massachusetts, Nevada, Rhode Island and Wyoming, California also met the United States Census Bureau’s challenge to better its 1990 response rate by five percent – an improvement which, had it taken place a decade earlier, would have meant greater Congressional representation and a significant increase in federal funds, Linda Gage, chief of demographic research for the Department of Finance, said.
“California was the most undercounted state in 1990,” she said.
“We know that the 838,000 citizens who went uncounted cost us a seat in congress and $2 billion dollars in federal funds.”
To ensure greater accuracy in determining California’s current population, a strong push was made to reach residents of Los Angeles County, the county most responsible for the undercount in 1990.
Although California’s Census 2000 undercount rate has yet to be determined, federal census official Brenda August said she is optimistic that partnerships between the U.S. Census Bureau, the city of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles School District has resulted in a much more exact count.
The county’s final response rate of 70 percent reflects the organizations’ intense involvement. In 1990, the rate was 64 percent.
On a local scale, efforts to improve response rates in Northern California proved successful.
Butte County’s response rate was 66 percent, up from 63 percent in 1990.
The neighboring counties of Tehama and Yuba increased census participation by 4 percent.
The California county which turned in the highest response rate was Orange County at 76 percent.
Halting a 30-year slide in the nation’s overall response rate, nearly seven out of 10 homes across the country filled out and returned a Census 2000 questionnaire.
“People thought we were overly optimistic in predicting a 61 percent response rate,” Mineta said. “Yet, we achieved a final response rate of 67 percent and that accomplishment is a strong measure of civic engagement.”