Census workers hope final effort pays off

Since May, Nevada's census takers have dropped in on more than 30 percent of residences in the state, in an attempt to count heads in the 450,000 households that did not complete census questionnaires earlier this year.

With that process now in its final stages, organizers of the door-to-door effort say they are pleased with the results.

"We reached a lot of people, and if we couldn't reach somebody (at a home), as a last resort we'd talk to neighbors or Realtors," said David Byerman, the Census Bureau's chief government liaison for Nevada. "Our census enumerators know what's at stake and that we can't afford to not get this information."

To back his assertion that every person counts, Byerman cites data showing the state receives $917 per person per year in federal funding for education, health care, and other services.

Every Nevada household that did not return a 10-question census form by mid-April was targeted for a "non-response follow-up" visit. The Census Bureau hired about 4,000 full- and part-time workers for the initiative. Each worker in this area received between $14.50 and $17.50 an hour for training, travel, and knocking on doors, according to Rogayle Freeman, manager of the Las Vegas census office.

Clark County's mail-in response rate of 67 percent, which was slightly lower than the state average, meant that census workers had 345,000 homes to visit in Southern Nevada.

Byerman said door-to-door canvassers through last week had visited 96 percent of the Nevada homes on the non-response list.

Byerman and Freeman said officials received few complaints from or about census workers out in the field.

In all, 6,200 jobs were created by the Census Bureau in Nevada, Byerman said. The employment of these temporary workers has been credited with keeping Nevada's jobless rate from climbing even higher than its current rate of 14 percent.

Census officials could not provide information showing how much Nevada census efforts have cost. They said the number of hours per week put in by each worker has varied greatly.

"When you look at how much money is at stake, we can show a real strong return on investment," Byerman said.

The last substantive part of the census operation is set to start this week, when workers plan to go back and confirm that approximately 70,000 homes in the state are vacant. About 2,000 workers will remain on the payroll to do that task.

The Census Bureau is encouraging local residents to call a hot line if they feel they have been overlooked by census counters.

Total census results will be made public in the fall.

Contact reporter Alan Maimon at amaimon @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0404.