Northside census form return rate lags behind city’s


This map shows how each census "tract" is doing in terms of mail in participation rate. An interactive version of the map is available here. (Graphic courtesy U.S. Census Bureau)


Curtis Knox and Gwen Brown — along with 61 percent of their Northside neighbors — filled out their 2010 Census forms and mailed them in.

“Everybody has to fill [the form] out, because you’ll get in trouble [if you don’t],” Brown said.

The police won’t come knocking on your door because of a missing census form, of course, but starting May 1, Census Bureau workers will.

And they’ll have quite a few Northside doors to knock on, since 39 percent of Northside households haven’t turned in their forms.

This is bad news for Northsiders, because census figures are used to determine how much political representation and how many tax dollars the area will receive during the next 10 years.

Plus, each household that doesn’t mail in a form or mails one in with errors costs taxpayers $57, according to, because workers must call and often visit each household. The government would save $1.5 billion if every single household filled out its form.

Census Bureau spokesperson Pam Golden said, “[The workers will] come and ask the ten questions and be on their way.” All official census employees will have the proper identification and a badge.

Golden deemed the Northside and much of the City of Pittsburgh a “hard to count area.”

She said these areas are determined by several factors, including high unemployment rates, low participation rates in the 2000 Census, a high concentration of foreign-language speakers.

As of Wednesday, April 14, the Northside’s 61 percent mail in participation rate is lower than the city’s 67 percent rate, which is the same as the national rate. The Northside falls significantly behind Allegheny County’s 74 percent participation rate and Pennsylvania’s 72 percent rate.

The census uses “tracts” determined by its geography department rather than zip codes to count mail in participation rates. A tract “could be a few blocks, could be smaller than a block,” Golden said, but they can also be much larger.

On the Northside, some of the tracts span multiple neighborhoods, making it difficult to determine how each community is responding.

Keeping that in mind, the Northview Heights area had the lowest mail in participation rate, at 43 percent. The Summer Hill area has the highest rate at 80 percent. Tracts that include parts of Brighton Heights and Troy Hill tied for second at 78 percent.

Percentages have been slowly climbing as procrastinators mail in their forms, but only three days remain to do so. After Friday, April 16, any household that has not mailed in a form will be put on a list of households requiring follow up.

If you have lost your form, you should call 1-866-872-6868 to request another form. The number is toll-free. Forms can also be picked up at Questionnaire Assistance Centers at the Woods Run Library in Brighton Heights and the North Shore Community Alliance building in Manchester.

“If they want to stay out of the door-to-door knocking, these are the things to do. [The form] needs to go in the mail by the 16th.” Golden said. “The form is 10 questions long and it literally takes ten minutes to complete.”

Two copies of forms were mailed out to certain city zip codes that were among hard to count areas, Golden said, although she did not know which ones.

The Census Bureau is in the final process of hiring census workers, and is still administering the tests that serve as the application process. Tests are administered at the Allegheny Library on Federal Street, and those interested should call 1-866-861-2010.


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