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Contact: Morrie Goodman
U.S. Secretary of Commerce William M. Daley and Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt announced today that 61 percent of American households have returned their census forms. The 61 percent mail response rate meets the Census Bureau's projection used for budget and management purposes in planning census field operations and requesting funding from the U.S. Congress.
"The first census of the new millennium has reached an important milestone," said Secretary Daley. "However, we can and must do better. Every resident in America should be cooperating fully in this process. If you still have a census form, fill it out completely and send it back now. If you don't mail back your form, please cooperate with census workers when they knock at your door."
Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt said, "The 61 percent response rate is encouraging news, but we still have a long way to go to reach a complete count. Census 2000 will succeed only if people cooperate fully. In this context, recent congressional actions and statements that might support some people's inclinations to leave some questions blank are unhelpful and potentially harmful to this effort."
Secretary Daley added, "The Sense of the Senate amendment approved by voice vote last week tells the Census Bureau to do nothing at all to ensure that people answer all census questions. While the amendment has no real legal effect, it sends the wrong message that people can refuse to answer questions they don't like. This is extremely unfortunate. All Census 2000 questions were reviewed by Congress in advance, and the data gathered are vital to communities across America carrying out laws and properly distributing federal funds. At this moment, it is imperative that we do everything humanly possible to encourage, not discourage, full participation in Census 2000."
Through April 11, the Census Bureau will post the Census 2000 initial response rates on its Internet site at <http://www.census.gov> for state, local and tribal entities. This site provides valuable feedback to local areas about the mailback rate so they can monitor their household participation rate within their communities.
On April 27, the Census Bureau will begin sending enumerators to visit all those households that have not returned their census forms.
The Census Bureau's '90 Plus Five campaign challenged state and local jurisdictions to raise their response rates by at least 5 percentage points over 1990. In 1990, the national response rate was 65 percent; thus the '90 Plus Five goal is 70 percent.
Currently, 7 percent of the nation's jurisdictions have met or exceeded their target response rate. Among them are Boston, Mass.; Santa Ana, Calif.; Anaheim, Calif.; Compton, Calif.; Modesto, Calif.; Plymouth, Mass.; Panama City, Fla.; and St. Cloud, Minn.