How New Yorkers are responding to the census

Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC Census 2020 Director Julie Menin doing census outreach in queens.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC Census 2020 Director Julie Menin doing census outreach in queens.
Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC Census 2020 Director Julie Menin doing census outreach in queens.

How New Yorkers are responding to the census

The count could affect New York for the next decade. Many New Yorkers haven’t bothered.
September 14, 2020

The census count is winding down its operations, though exactly when it will come to a close is uncertain. The Trump administration had moved the deadline for finalizing the decennial count up a month to Sept. 30, though a federal judge temporarily blocked that order earlier this month. An accelerated timeline has stoked fears of a worse undercount of the country’s population – especially of Black and Latino communities. 

The census count is currently in the phase in which door-knockers called enumerators are following up with households who haven’t filled out their census forms – though people can still fill it out online. Here are some of the latest numbers on how New Yorkers are responding to the census. 

How New York ranks nationally

New York ranked 33rd in its self-response rate to the census among the 50 states, with 62.4% of residents responding. That falls behind the national average of 65.7% and is more than 10 percentage points lower than the No. 1 state, Minnesota, where 74.4% of residents filled out their census forms. (Self-response rate refers to residents who filled out their census forms themselves, before a follow-up from an enumerator.)

What’s at stake

The outcome of this decade’s count could determine whether New York loses at least one congressional seat – or even two – and billions in federal funding. New York received $73.3 billion through 55 large federal programs in fiscal year 2016, which was determined in part using 2010 census figures, according to the George Washington Institute of Public Policy.

The county with the highest response rate

Nassau County at 73%

The Long Island county has fared better than the rest of the state in boosting its census self-response rate, bolstered by its Complete Count Committee, made up of nonprofit, labor and faith-based organizations dedicated to boosting the count. 

The county with the lowest self-response rate

Hamilton County at 18.5%

Less than one-fifth of households in this rural upstate county have filled out their census forms. Much of that can likely be attributed to the fact that many homes in the region are vacation homes.

New York City’s self-response rates

Staten Island at 64.3%

Manhattan at 60.4%

Queens at 60.3%

Bronx at 60.1%

Brooklyn at 56.2%

Staten Island is leading in census response among the five boroughs, while the self-response rates in Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx remain fairly comparable. Brooklyn is lagging behind, with neighborhoods such as Borough Park and East New York seeing comparatively lower response rates. Though Manhattan still ranks second, response rates on the Upper East Side, Greenwich Village and other wealthy neighborhoods have dropped well below their 2010 levels, presumably as those residents fled their homes amid the pandemic. 

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Kay Dervishi
is a staff reporter at City & State.
20200928