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April 01, 2010 4:07 am

Powell census participation rate currently at 65 percent

Written by Tribune Staff

Return beats county, state, and national averages

Some 64 percent of residents in the Powell area had mailed back their 2010 Census forms as of Wednesday, a higher participation rate than the rest of the county and most of the state and nation so far.

The Census Bureau is pushing for as high a mail participation rate as possible, because the mailed-back forms are a far less expensive way to tally population than face-to-face interviews with census takers later. Having 100 percent of households return their mailed forms across the U.S. would save an estimated $1.5 billion of taxpayer money, the bureau says.

According to the Census Bureau's participation rate statistics — updated each weekday as the forms come in — Powell's 65 percent return rate is beating the Cody area's 61 percent rate and Meeteetse's 54 percent.

As a whole, Park County's participation rate stood at 58 percent on Wednesday.

So far, that's above the national participation rate (52 percent) and the state's overall participation rate (53 percent).

In 2000, Wyoming and the country as a whole returned 72 percent of their mailed forms, leaving more than a quarter of the population to be counted by census takers in door-to-door interviews.

In the Powell area, 83 percent of households mailed their form back in 2000.

The rates are the percentage of forms mailed back by households that received them; forms returned as “undeliverable” are not counted. An interactive map displaying participation rates across the country is available at http://2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map/.

The Census Bureau has sent a number of mailings seeking to boost responses by mail — including advance letters in February announcing that residents' census forms would soon be arriving. Forms arrived at most households between March 15 and 17, and a reminder postcard arrived about a week later.

While multiple reminders might seem like a waste of money, the Census Bureau says the mailings actually provide savings.

Of the advance mailings, “Years of research have shown that higher percentages of people receiving the mail questionnaire return a completed form after they receive the advance letter compared to those who receive merely the census form with a simultaneous request to return it,” wrote Census Bureau Director Robert Groves on the 2010 Census' blog in February. “Every 1 percent of the U.S. households that return a completed questionnaire will save $85 million in taxpayer money that would have to be spent sending people out to interview households in person.”

If the mailed forms are not returned, a census taker must be sent to the home to get the needed population data.

“This costs money that we'd like to avoid spending ($57 per household instead of the 42 cents for return mailing),” wrote Groves in a Monday blog post.

Those who didn't return their census form the first time around should receive a replacement form in the next two weeks. If you haven't received a form at all by April 12, you can call the bureau, toll-free, at 1-866-872-6868 for assistance.

Additionally, blank forms and help with the 10-question surveys are available at Census Bureau assistance centers across the state.

A “Be Counted” site is set up at the Park County Library in Cody, 1500 Heart Mountain Street, with operating hours from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Tuesdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Wednesdays, 4-7 p.m. on Thursdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturdays. The site is scheduled to be open through April 17.

Data from the census is used to shape legislative districts and to help divvy up state and federal funding. Participation in the census is required by law.

If current rules stay on the books, the individual records of 2010 census participants will be released for genealogical research 72 years from now — in 2082. Until then, the records are securely stored in the National Archives, where personal information remains strictly confidential, being off-limits to the public and all other government agencies, including the IRS and law enforcement.