Puerto Rico has the lowest Census response rate in the US
As the US Census Bureau continues to send out questionnaires for the 2020 census, Puerto Rico is at a low for self-reporting responses. The bureau decided hand-delivering census questionnaires is the most effective way for the islands’ residents to respond. COVID-19 has put a stop to Bureau officials hand-delivering these reports since March. Bureau officials have not been able to hand-deliver questionnaires until recently while respecting the lockdown and curfew rules of the islands. Puerto Rico remains to be under a strict curfew.
The national census response is around 59%, but Puerto Rico’s is 8%, according to NPR. The bureau is continuing to drop off questionnaires to get the response rate higher elsewhere in rural areas such as Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and Wyoming.
Puerto Rico’s underreporting could create devastating repercussions regarding federal funding. Communities receive federal funding, the current budget is $1.5 trillion, based on their population reported through the census. With everything else happening, Puerto Rico could benefit from a significant funding budget.
Campaigns encouraging citizens to fill out the census in Puerto Rico began back in 2019. The campaign’s efforts are inspired by Puerto Rico’s challenges. The 2020 Census Barriers, Attitudes and Motivation Study found few Puerto Rico citizens have knowledge of the census, its importance, who is counted, and how to participate. Additionally, Puerto Rico citizens are concerned with privacy and confidentiality and do not place trust in the government, according to The Weekly Journal. Jeff Behler, Puerto Rico’s regional director of the US Census Bureau, insisted on hiring people to hand-deliver questionnaires within their own community. This, Behler believes, would increase the lack of interest and ensure proper communication as many citizens speak Spanish in Puerto Rico.
While Puerto Rico is and has been, facing problems with participation in the census, COVID-19 has not been of any help. The bureau is dealing with the challenges this pandemic has brought in reaching its goals across the country.