City's return rate stressed as census questionnaires go out

Baltimore's participation in 2000 was about 53%

March 16, 2010|By Brent Jones | brent.jones@baltsun.com

Census workers on Monday mailed out questionnaires to most of the state's roughly 5.7 million residents as part of the government-mandated once-a-decade population count used to allocate federal funds and congressional seats.

Two weeks ago, census-takers began hand-delivering the 10-question forms in some of the state's more rural areas in St. Mary's and Calvert counties. The state's mail-in participation rate in 2000 was 73 percent, one point higher than the national average.

State and census officials say they want to improve on that percentage by focusing on Baltimore, which struggled to get its residents to return the forms. About 53 percent of city residents mailed back the questionnaire, the second-worst rate among similar-size cities in the country. Newark, N.J., had the worst participation rate, at 46 percent.

City officials set aside $150,000 from its treasury for the census and are embarking on an aggressive TV and radio advertising campaign encouraging residents to participate.

"We want everyone in Maryland to mail back the questionnaire," said Sylvia T. Ballinger, an officer with the Philadelphia Regional Census Center, which oversees Maryland. "For every 1 percent increase, we save about $85 million."

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