OC Census Response Rates Higher Than State And National Rates Thus Far

JULIE LEOPO, Voice of OC

Moises Vazquez, 39, a Latino Health Access staff member hangs census info on a mobile grocery truck in Santa Ana on May 23, 2020.

The rate of responses to the 2020 Census –  a count of the number of people living in the U.S. – coming from Orange County is surpassing national and state response rates and is on track to beat the county’s 2010 final census response rates as well.

These responses will determine how billions of federal dollars will be distributed as cities face the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. More responses to the census means more money going to communities annually for health clinics, school lunch initiatives and other services for the next decade. 

“It shapes so much of our communities, not just in our political representation,” said Jeanette Durán Pacheco, a media specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau. “It affects not only just us personally, our city, our state, our country but the future of our children for the next 10 years.”

Every household is required to fill out a questionnaire about who is living there, and the resulting data is used to generate official population counts, determine legislative districts and how billions of dollars in funding is distributed.

“The more responses we get and the more accurate responses we get for our communities, the more federal funding that will be allocated into those communities for programs such as Head Start, WIC, Medicaid, housing as well as things like schools hospitals, infrastructure and road construction,” Pacheco said.

Orange County is ranked sixth out of 58 counties in California in responses with a rate of 70%. Los Angeles and Riverside counties have a response rate of around 60%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

While the county’s response rates are almost identical to its response rates from 2010, some cities are still behind on the number of questionnaires filled out compared to the last count. 

Here’s a sampling of the response rates of cities in the county thus far this year, according to data provided from the U.S. Census Bureau:

Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, and Santa Ana are the cities with the biggest gap in census response rate since the last one conducted in 2010. The three cities had some of the lowest responses rates 10 years ago as well. Newport Beach has the highest gap in reporting this year versus 2010 with a 10% difference in response rates.

The cities of Stanton, Brea, Anaheim, La Habra, Irvine and Orange have also yet to match their response rates from the last census.

This year is the first time in history that the census can be completed online. It can be filled out in English, Vietnamese, Spanish, Arabic, Tagalog and eight other languages. It can also be completed on the phone. The deadline to submit a response to the census has been extended from July 31 to October 31.

Last year, Orange County officials put $1.5 million in state money toward local outreach to get more census participation in hard to count communities. 

La Palma and Villa Park have the highest response rates this year, as in 2010 and, Villa Park currently is the 11th highest in the state.

Ten cities in the county including Aliso Viejo, Mission Viejo, Los Alamitos, Cypress, Seal Beach and Lake Forest have all surpassed their response rates from the last census. The cities of Westminster, Yorba Linda, Buena Park and Laguna Niguel are less than a percentage away from matching their previous response rate in 2010.

“We have seen an influx in rates from this year in those cities since 2010 which is great and we expect that by October 31 we will have a higher percentage of counts,” Pacheco said.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him @helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.