Rural Residents Don’t Count…Themselves?

As COVID-19 continues to plague our nation, the Constitutionally mandated Census limps along. The Census matters to everyone. We use it to allocate resources. We use it to allocate political representation. Sure, statistical sampling would likely provide more accurate answers.But, the Supreme Court has ruled we cannot sample. The Census must actually count. (For more info, you can read the complicated history here.)

USDA defines nine categories of counties, ranging from major metro areas (1) to completely rural (9). We average response rates across counties by category..
Source: data capture 6/25/2020; American Rural analysis.

Montana has a Census problem. At the end of last year, experts believed we would gain a second seat in the House. Today, the numbers aren’t looking so good. Rural Montana is not responding.

Is this a Montana problem? We should ask who responds and who doesn’t? Individual responses, either by mail or online, are particularly important this year because door-to-door Census work probably falls short due to COVID-19. So, we looked at response rates across the urban-rural continuum, by county. The results are striking: Rural America is not responding at close to the rate of urban America. The details of the categories appear in a table below. Simply put, categories 1-3 are urban, 7-9 are rural, and 4-6 fall in between.

Rural Americans are shooting themselves in their collective feet. The Census drives representation and allocation of federal resources…and we aren’t even counting ourselves.

Below are the details of the USDA categorization of counties from urban to rural: