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Salt Lake County’s Census Response Rate Was Higher Than The State Average, But Disparities Persist

A photo of two census documents.
Brian Albers
This year, Utahns could fill out the census from March 12 - October 15, 2020.

A higher percentage of Salt Lake County residents participated in the census this year than across Utah and the country.

Salt Lake County had a 74.3% response rate, compared to 71% across the state.

Marti Woolford, who headed up the county’s census outreach efforts, said they focused on increasing participation from traditionally undercounted populations like Latinos and people in lower income neighborhoods.

Outreach efforts included partnering with community organizations to remind people to fill out the census, and a marketing campaign that cost more than $92,000

Woolford says response rates were up almost everywhere in the county, but the west side of the valley still trailed the wealthier east side.

“I don't think the census gets talked about as a social justice issue,” she said. “It's money that comes into our neighborhoods … Participating in the census can be a direct action to improving our communities.”

In Utah, an estimated $533 of federal funding in the 2015 fiscal year was lost for each person that didn’t fill out the census, according to a study from George Washington University.

Census data also determines the number of representatives Utah sends to Congress, and helps the state Legislature draw districts for Congress, the state Legislature and school boards.

Census participation in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons dropped by almost 20% compared to 2010. Just 28.1% of residents filled out the survey this year. Woolford attributes that to seasonal employees leaving when the ski resorts shut down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Even though they're part of that community, they're not counted as that because they no longer had a job so they needed to leave,” she said.

Woolford said, overall, outreach efforts were a success even as they faced challenges like the pandemic, confusion about the end dates of the survey and worries that a citizenship question would be included.

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER.
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