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Where Census Self-Response Rates Have Increased the Most – August 2020 Study


Earlier this spring, SmartAsset decided to take a closer look at where people had responded to the 2020 Census the most. Since the publication of our original study in May, the Census Bureau moved up its extended deadline for completing the decennial count, causing some concern that many households could go uncounted. The 2020 Census was originally scheduled to end on October 31, 2020 – six months after the deadline in a typical Census year – to accommodate changes due to COVID-19. However, it will now conclude an entire month early, on September 30. Accurate counts are important to ensure proper representation in Congress and fair allocation of 1.50 trillion in federal money this year.

Though the deadline has been moved up, Census self-response rates have increased significantly over the extension period thus far. Between May 4, 2020 and August 18, 2020, the national Census self-response rate rose by 7.3 percentage points, from 56.6% to 63.9%. However, certain cities saw much larger increases over that time period than others.

In this study, SmartAsset looked at the cities where 2020 Census self-response rates have increased the most over the past three and a half months, comparing the change in self-response rates between May 4, 2020 and August 18, 2020 across the 50 largest U.S. cities. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

Key Findings

  • With only a few weeks until the deadline, the current 2020 Census self-response rate is about three percentage points lower than the 2010 Census self-response rate. In 2010, about two-thirds (66.5%) of American households responded to the Census. Despite increased ease of responding with the addition of an online option this year, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic have made data collection more difficult. As of August 18, 2020, the Census self-response rate was 63.9%.
  • Large cities rank in the top 10. Of the top 10 cities where 2020 Census self-response rates increased the most between the beginning of May and the middle of August, three of them have populations of more than 1.5 million: New York, New York; San Antonio, Texas and Chicago, Illinois. Between May 4, 2020 and August 18, 2020, self-response rates increased by 10.7, 8.7 and 8.1 percentage points in the three cities, respectively.
  • Detroit, Michigan stands out for its exceptionally low response rate. Across the 50 largest U.S. cities, 49 have Census response rates of higher than 50%. Detroit, Michigan is the exception, with fewer than one in two households responding. As of August 18, 2020, the Census self-response rate in Detroit was 49.1%, about 15 percentage points lower than the national average.

Between early May and mid-August, Census self-response rates increased the most in New York City, by almost 11 percentage points, from 45.4% to 56.1%. Despite this increase, New York’s 2020 self-response rate is still low relative to that of 2010. The 2010 Census self-response rate in New York was 64.0%, 7.9 percentage points higher than the current rate.

Two Texas cities – El Paso and San Antonio – and two California cities – Fresno and Oakland – rank behind the Big Apple as the places where self-response rates have increased the most. Of those four cities, the self-response rate as of August 18, 2020 was the highest in Oakland, at 67.0%, and lowest in San Antonio, at 61.7%.

In four additional cities – Miami, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; Chicago, Illinois and Austin, Texas – the Census self-response rate rose by eight percentage points or more between May 4 and August 18, 2020. Though the self-response rates in Nashville and Austin are now roughly on pace with the 63.9% national average, Miami and Chicago still lag. As of August 18, 2020, the Census self-response rates in Miami and Chicago were 50.2% and 57.3%, respectively.

Data and Methodology

Research and data for this report comes from the Census Bureau. Self-response rates reflect the number of households who have responded divided by the estimated total number of households in each area. To find the cities where 2020 Census self-response has increased the most, we found the difference between the Census self-response rate as of May 4, 2020 and the rate as of August 18, 2020.

Tips for Helping Your Community and Making Smart Financial Decisions

  • Take a look at the tools we produce using Census data. Many of the free tools on our website rely on Census-derived data. These tools include: our mortgage calculator, rent vs. buy calculator and retirement calculator.
  • Complete your 2020 Census questionnaire. Some estimates have shown that states, on average, lose out on upwards of $1,000 in funding from the federal government for each uncounted person. This funding could improve the school districts, transportation systems or public facilities in your state. If you haven’t yet, take the time to mail back your questionnaire, respond via phone or visit Census language support resources can be found here.
  • Consider professional help to formulate a more comprehensive plan. While our interactive calculators can help you figure out how much to save for retirement, what you should be spending on a house and what asset-allocation profile you should have in your portfolio, a financial advisor can provide even more insight. Finding the right financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Questions about our study? Contact us at

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