Census counting ends Oct. 15


October 22, 2020

The saga of the 2020 U.S. Census appears to have finally come to an end. This year, responding to the census was complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ever-changing response deadline.

While the census deadline is normally July, anticipating coronavirus-related complications, the U.S. Census Bureau initially extended the 2020 response deadline to the end of October to give people more time. But in midsummer, responding to pressure from the Trump administration to meet its statutory end-of-year deadline for processing data, it moved the response deadline up by a month without warning.

On Oct. 1, a U.S. District Court in California ruled that the bureau needed to restore the Oct. 31 deadline. And less than two weeks after that, the U.S. Supreme Court said that wasn’t the case and allowed the bureau to end census field operations on Oct. 15.

According to the Census Bureau, as of Oct. 16, 99.9% of households both statewide and nationwide had been counted. A breakdown of the Haines Borough household count is unavailable, according to bureau spokesperson Jeanette Durán Pacheco.

Some warn that the numbers could be deceptive. Former staff director of the U.S House census oversight subcommittee Terri Ann Lowenthal said a 99.9% household count gives no indication of the count’s quality or accuracy. Difficult-to-count populations like those experiencing homelessness, people in temporary housing and people in group housing were likely even harder to count this year because of the pandemic.

A method often used to count these populations involves using a proxy respondent, someone like a neighbor, landlord or real estate agent, who may have some information about the people residing in a given unit, but may not have all the information. This could impact the quality of the data collected, according to Lowenthal.

Haines had a 33% self-response rate this year, down from the 45% self-response rate in 2010. In both years, the total percentage of households counted was significantly higher since many households were counted by local enumerators using a variety of methods including proxy respondents. Alaska had a 55% self-response rate in 2020.

The census, mandated by the U.S. Constitution, is a population count of everyone living in the United States that is used to determine congressional representation, redistricting and how federal and state funds, including coronavirus relief, are distributed. It’s conducted once every 10 years.


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