Each Michigander counted helps infuse some $1,800 in their communities, showing how even more responses would benefit the state.
MICHIGAN — The Census determines everything from how many votes a state has in Congress and presidential elections to federal disaster relief and resource allocation. As accurate a count as possible is essential to states and cities having the voice and support they need.
And Michigan is answering the call.
According to Census data, nearly 70% of Michiganders have responded to the Census, compared to just over 60% nationwide. This puts Michigan at the third highest rate of response in the nation, reports Michigan Radio.
Though the coronavirus pandemic has hobbled the efforts to get Michiganders to report the information the Census needs, Michigan was also the first state in the nation to match its 2010 response rate, reported Michigan Advance.
“With more than $30 billion in funding for critical local health programs and services including police and fire, roads, literacy programs for students and nutrition programs for seniors on the line, it’s never been more important for Michigan to have a complete and accurate census count,” Michigan’s Census director Kerry Ebersole Singh told Advance.
But there are concerns that communities of color might be undercounted, according to Michigan Radio. While Michigan’s response rate far exceeds the national average and at 80% Livingston County eclipses the national response rate, Detroit trails the national average.
Kurt Metzger, founder and director emeritus of Data Driven Detroit, told Michigan Radio that this is a result of distrust for the process among Detroiters.
“They’re not really seeing the federal government as caring one iota about their situation,” Metzger said. “They don’t see the schools really being improved through an infusion of money, they don’t see money coming into their neighborhoods. So it’s that real direct connection between the census and their future, and the city’s future is kind of a difficult concept, and so it really requires people to get out there, people to hear from people they trust.”
That leaves a lot of work for the “Michigan Be Counted” campaign. The campaign is a collaboration between the state of Michigan, U.S. Census Bureau, and the Michigan Nonprofit Association that aims to accomplish a response rate of one out of every three people.
A lack of being able to participate in community events has been a challenge for the campaign, explained Ebersole Singh, but the legislature authorized an unprecedented $16 million to help promote Census engagement and participation. That is the largest Census mobilization in Michigan history.
Metzger estimated that each person counted is worth around $1,800 to their community through the allocation of state and federal resources, and those numbers can’t be fixed by statistical projections. Undercounting is a serious concern, and it’s left him worried that even though Michigan overall is doing well, the Census may critically underserve particular cities.
“I think it’s going to be a lost census in many ways, but we are going to have to live with it regardless,” Metzger said. “The numbers will be written in stone.”
Filling out the Census form online takes about ten minutes and can make a major difference to your community, both in terms of financial support (which cities desperately need) and voting influence (with new citizen-led voting districts to be drawn from this data). The “Michigan Be Counted” campaign runs through Oct. 31.