Many people started getting their census forms last week, but have you sent yours back yet? It turns out quite a few people in our area have — more than the national average. While the forms aren't due back until May 1, the Census Bureau prefers if you return it by April 1. And a lot of people already have. According to the Census Bureau's new website:
- 31 percent of people in LaGrange County have already sent their forms back in
- 29 percent in Marshall County
- 25 percent in Kosciusko County
- 23 percent in Elkhart County
- 20 percent in St. Joseph County
- LaPorte County has the lowest return rate in our area, at 11%. This is the first time the Census Bureau has released return rates during the process. It gives communities an extra way to make sure those forms get filled out. The Bureau has launched an interactive map on its Web site which allows everyone to keep track of how many responses they have received. "This gives the message for local leaders to reinforce how a community is doing and to get out the word and encourage, particularly in those communities that are more difficult to count or where there have been historic issues,” said Mark Everson, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Administration. “They can say 'hey, we're not doing as well as we want to, so let's double our efforts and get the word out.’" St. Joseph County hopes to use the new information to improve on its 78 percent response rate in the 2000 census. "Once we know where certain areas of the city or the county are lagging behind as far as response, then we can put things in motion to identify where people are not sending the forms back,” said Larry Magliozzi with the St. Joseph County Planning Commission. While Indiana's rates are exceeding the national average, it is important to remember that it is just the beginning. Here is a look at Michigan's return rates so far: St. Joseph County has the highest results at 24 percent, with Cass County following with 22 percent, and Berrien and Van Buren counties with 21 percent. Statewide, Michigan is at 20 percent. That's still well above the national rate of 16 percent. The numbers will be updated daily, but April 1st is the day the Census Bureau wants you to base your answers on. So they expect many people to fill out and mail their forms on or after that day.