Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation encourages increased rural response
WASHINGTON – As the U.S. Census Bureau continues its effort to count every person living in the country for the 2020 Census, self-response rates throughout rural Tennessee are well below the national response rate.
Often, rural households do not have typical mailing addresses but use post office boxes in nearby towns. The Census Bureau typically does not mail to P.O. boxes. However, in light of COVID-19’s overall impact on the communications landscape, the Census Bureau sent postcards between June 24 and July 3 to an estimated 1.3 million post office boxes in communities where P.O. boxes are the only mailing address available. The postcards alerted households that a census taker may drop off invitations and a questionnaire, or that they would visit later in the summer to count people in person. The postcards also provide information on how to respond to the 2020 Census online or by phone.
Of the 95 counties in Tennessee, 78 are considered rural by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. Rural communities in Tennessee have a 2020 Census response rate of 59.3%. This compares to 63% for urban counties and 61.6% overall. The 15 lowest-responding counties in Tennessee are decidedly rural and all are below the 50% response mark.
– McNairy – 41.5%
– Polk – 42.5%
– Perry – 42.7%
– Bledsoe – 44.4%
– Grundy – 44.9%
– Pickett – 45.6%
– Sevier – 45.9%
– Fentress – 46.6%
– Hardeman – 46.9%
– Hardin – 46.9%
– Clay – 47.1%
– Trousdale – 47.3%
– Decatur – 49.0%
– Meigs – 49.5%
– DeKalb – 49.9%
The impact of undercounting residents in those communities will affect them for the next decade. More than $675 billion in federal funds – trillions of dollars over the next decade – will be attached to population counts. Communities that are undercounted risk missing out on federal funding for an array of housing, transportation, health care, education, social services, and other programs.
The Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation is partnering with the U.S. Census Bureau to encourage rural residents to be counted.
“As an organization, our goal is to provide a better way of life and a voice for rural Tennesseans and our members,” said Lee Maddox, Communications Director for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. “Counting every person in our rural areas is critically important to ensuring that those communities receive their fair share of our federal tax funding over the next ten years to support services they deserve and that they have representation in Nashville and Washington.”
According to the Tennessee Department of Health, 93% of Tennessee is rural. “People in rural areas have unique differences and challenges when it comes to economic and community development and health,” their website states. “Rural areas often have fewer service providers and resources for jobs, health care and community services.” Getting a complete count of these communities will increase their access to necessary resources including healthcare, education, and communication.
The Census Bureau is encouraging people to respond to the 2020 Census on their own so fewer census takers need to visit non-responding households. Households can respond online at 2020census.gov or by phone at 844-330-2020 or return the paper questionnaire by mail.
Responding is quick and easy, and all census responses are completely confidential. Under federal law, census responses cannot be shared with anyone, including any other government agency, so there is no risk in answering the census.