Nevadans are returning this year's census forms faster than they did 10 years ago.
The state has a 69 percent response rate so far from just the mailed questionnaires, outpacing numbers from the 2000 census when the rate was 69 percent overall. The national response rate is at 72 percent.
So why is everyone so excited to fill out the census?
Perhaps it's the short 10-question form, substantially smaller and less invasive than the 53-question census of 2000.
Or maybe Nevadans better appreciate the economic benefits that come from census data. After all, significant federal funding and a fourth congressional seat are on the line.
"Keep in mind we were sailing into headwinds of a foreclosure crisis and a 13 percent unemployment rate," said David Byerman, who leads the Nevada census effort for the U.S. Commerce Department.
"For us to match (the response rate from 10 years ago) is a real accomplishment. The challenge of conducting a census is a lot more formidable this time around. We are struggling economically as a community."
The state receives $9,170 per person per decade in federal funding. In a household of four, that's $36,000 that can be used for federally funded services such as school lunches, extended day care and retirement homes.
"If people aren't answering their doors or filling out the questionnaires (to mail back), they still reap the benefits, which hurts the state of Nevada," said Rogayle Freeman, who manages the Las Vegas census office. "If they didn't fill out that form, that's money we're not receiving. It really hurts us as a community. We can't afford to miss anyone."
Nevada could get a fourth seat in Congress based on census data collected. The 3rd Congressional District was created as a result of population growth tracked by the 2000 census.
Richer areas such as Summerlin, Green Valley and Lake Las Vegas have a higher return rate so far, with ZIP codes 89134, 89011 and 89012 averaging response rates between 70 percent and 92 percent.
Low participation rates are scattered throughout the valley. Officials said this can be attributed, at least in part, to the high number of foreclosures in these ZIP codes.
For example, about 1 percent of census data has been returned from 89103, an area between Rainbow Boulevard and Interstate 15 just north of Tropicana Avenue.
Census workers now are going door to door to households that have not responded.
People who receive mail at P.O. boxes rather than a home address would not get a mail-in questionnaire, which would explain low participation rates in certain areas.
Locations where mailboxes are vandalized and never replaced also do not receive mailed forms. In some cases, census forms are lost or destroyed in the mail or are delivered to the wrong addresses.
It's areas such as these that make up the majority of a census takers' workload, Freeman added. In these instances, a census taker would knock on doors to get the information.
Total census results will be posted in the fall and will include door-to-door results as well as late mail returns.
Contact Kristi Jourdan at email@example.com or 702-383-0279.