US Census Response Rates on American Indian Reservations in the 2020 Census and in the 2010 Census
May 15, 2020
The U.S. Census is the backbone of the U.S. official statistics system. A decennial census is constitutionally mandated to determine proportional representation in Congress. It also provides population counts that are used to allocate public services and funding across the country, and to calculate vital statistics estimates. In the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Census data are crucial for understanding case and death rates as well. Currently, the U.S. Census Bureau is undertaking its 24th Census amid one of the most difficult enumeration periods in history. While the country faces dual threats of an economic shutdown and the public health pandemic, the decennial census is underway.
As a result, U.S. Census response rates may not be the highest priority for the country’s citizens. In prior Censuses, low response rates impacted certain populations: racial and ethnic minorities, children, those in poverty, and the highly mobile. A critical remedy is the use of Census enumerators who make direct house calls to non-response households. However, in-person enumerators may not be as viable in the time of a pandemic due to health risks to Census workers and households.
In particular, American Indian and Alaska Native nations and communities have some of the highest Census non-response rates decade after decade. There are many reasons for low rates of participation, including non-standard mailing addresses, antipathy towards the U.S. Government, and lack of familiarity with the agency and purpose of the Census, among others. To evaluate current levels of Census response among American Indian communities, we examined real time response data from the U.S. Census.
In the figure below, we take the American Indian tribal reservation response data provided as of May 13, 2020 and compare it to the 2010 response rate. The size of the circles reflects the size of the population on reservation for the AIAN alone population. We exclude Oklahoma tribes and Alaska Natives in this analysis. Additionally, we exclude those tribal reservations that have no information or have a zero recorded as a response rate in either time period.
The gray diagonal line, at a 45-degree angle, represents an equal response rate in 2010 and 2020 at the tribal level. Bubbles that fall below the line indicate that the current Census response rate is behind the historical 2010 response rate. To some extent, this would be expected as Census enumeration will continue for the rest of the year. The red vertical line at 67% indicates the 2010 response rate for the U.S. as a whole. The horizontal red line indicates the current completion rate for the U.S. as a whole in 2020, which is at 60% currently.
There appears to be seven tribal reservations that have response rates greater than the current national average (they are above the red horizontal line). The rest of the tribal reservations appear to have response rates that are currently below the U.S. national average. Historically, the majority of tribal reservations were below the U.S. average response rate which is evidenced by the high number of bubbles to the left of the red vertical line at 67%. Finally, the majority of tribal reservations are below their 2010 Census response rates at the current time period as illustrated by the majority of bubbles positioned below the gray 45-degree line.
The low self-response rate during the first phase of the 2020 Census will create major challenges for the second phase, the non-response follow-up in-person interviews. Low self-response means many more labor-intensive contacts will be needed, which is particularly difficult during the pandemic. Ultimately, this may produce a significant undercount of American Indians. It is critical that we act now to reduce the response gap as much as possible and to use updated information on the location and magnitude of the gap to more effectively guide outreach efforts in the near future. Partnerships with tribal nations to ensure full and accurate counts of American Indians on reservation lands are critical.
For further questions or inquiries please contact: Randall Akee, email@example.com.
The list below provides the information as of May 13, 2020 for response rates on American Indian reservations for the 2020 US Census. We have matched it, where possible, to the 2010 Census Response rates. These data are all publicly available from the U.S. Census Bureau online: https://data.world/uscensusbureau/2020-census-response-rate-data.
|Jicarilla Apache Nation|
|Lac Vieux Desert|
|Tohono O’odham Nation|
|Pauma and Yuima|
|Uintah and Ouray|
|St. Regis Mohawk|
|Lac du Flambeau|
|Sac and Fox Nation|
|Pyramid Lake Paiute|
|Lac Courte Oreilles|
|Ysleta del Sur|
|Prairie Band of Potawatomi Nation|
|Maricopa (Ak Chin)|
|Sac and Fox/Meskwaki|
|Pascua Pueblo Yaqui|
|Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation|
|Aroostook Band of Micmac|
|Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux|
|Little Traverse Bay|
|Fond du Lac|
|Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw|