Complete Count: Census enters final month with a lot of work still to do

A children's book is displayed at a U.S. Census walk-up counting site set up for Hunt County in Greenville, Texas, Friday, July 31, 2020. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

HARLINGEN — The home stretch of the once-a-decade numbers race called Census 2020 has begun, and Texas still needs about 22 percent more households for a complete count.

Lila Valencia, senior demographer with the Texas Demographic Center, said Monday in an online overview of the current census effort that Texas has been moving up the national list, and she singled out several border counties for a strong showing.

“We have been adding about .10 to .20 percentage points per day in the last couple of weeks, really since ‘Non-Response Follow-Up’ started,” Valencia said, referring to NRFU (pronounced NUR-FU), which is the house-by-house, in-person visits by census workers which began last month.

“But because of the attention that has been given to the start of NRFU and to the shortened timeline, we’ve really been able to see a real ramping up in self-response rates,” she added. “Currently, we are at a 60.1 percent response rate compared to the national 64.7 percent response rate. We are tied at 38th with the state of Georgia and nationally … 95.7 million households have responded and in Texas that’s 7.3 million households.”

Valencia was referring to a decision by the U.S. Census Bureau last month, which caught some Valley officials and others by surprise, when the bureau announced the in-person home visits would finish Sept. 30 and not Oct. 31.

“Texas is estimated to be 77.7 percent totally enumerated,” Valencia said, when adding self-responses and NRFU responses. “Now the goal for this is 100 percent, right? So as you can tell we’re still over 20 percent to go during these last 30 days.”

“Texas ranks 38th in self-response as I mentioned before,” she added. “We rank 26th in NRFU response so that means that the Census Bureau has been putting a great effort in Texas in trying to get enumerations done, and so we are ranking higher for Non-Response Follow-Up alone. But in terms of total enumeration we are ranked 40th, so there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Valencia singled out several border counties which have broken through the 50-percent level when it comes to counting households, referring to a blue shade on census maps which indicate a county has reached that milestone.

Census worker Marisela Gonzales adjusts a sign at a U.S. Census walk-up counting sight set up for Hunt County in Greenville, Texas, Friday, July 31, 2020. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

“You can see we have more and more blue areas, there are even blue areas in parts of the Mexican border, the southern border of Texas,” Valencia said. “So we see El Paso has been over 50 percent and in blue for a while now (at 63.9 percent), but we start to see other counties, like Maverick and Hidalgo, and so this is great. We’re absolutely moving in the right direction. We now have 121 counties of the 254 that have 50-percent and above response rates.”

In the Valley, Hidalgo County is the sole county above a 50-percent response rate at 51.1 percent.

Cameron County is close at 48.9 percent, and Willacy and Starr counties have greatly improved in the past few weeks to reach response rates of 40.1 percent and 45.3 percent, respectively.

rkelley@valleystar.com