One in three Kansas households has yet to fill out census

Celia Llopis-Jepsen
Kansas News Service

Amid a pandemic that has slowed efforts to count Americans, more than a third of Kansas households haven’t yet responded to the U.S. census.

In some counties, especially in rural areas, less than half of the population has filled out the forms that help steer billions in federal dollars and resources to the state each year.

One recent, high-profile example: Medical supplies that Kansas received from the Strategic National Stockpile to combat COVID-19 went out to counties based on their 2010 census counts.

As a whole, Kansas’ 65% rate so far is slightly ahead of the national response rate. But participation in the census varies dramatically so far, even within individual counties and towns.

Take Dodge City. Some census tracts in the area have topped 75%. Others, in the town’s south, remain around 40% or 50%.

Those areas include neighborhoods with lots of newcomers to the country and lower-income areas, such as mobile home parks, according to Blanca Soto.

Soto leads the push for census participation in the southwest part of the state for Kansas Appleseed, a group that focuses on poverty, access to food and other social issues.

Though this year marks the first time people can fill out the census online, many families don’t have computers or smartphones. Others haven’t taken the U.S. census before and don’t know how the count works. Those with family members in the country illegally might be especially fearful.

“With the immigrant community, trust (in) the government is a problem,” Soto said. “They don't really feel comfortable giving out their personal information, for fear that the information will be shared with immigration services or the police department.”

By law, the U.S. Census Bureau must keep people’s responses confidential. The information cannot be used by immigration or law enforcement agencies.