The importance of the decennial headcount conducted by the Census Bureau can’t be overestimated, considering that each uncounted person is worth, theoretically, $18,000 per decade ($1,800 per year) in state and federal grants.
That would mean, using rate of participation data provided by the Census Bureau to the Maryland Department of Planning, that Worcester County missed out on millions of dollars following the 2010 census.
According to state planning, the response rate for Worcester was just 59 percent, which means its reported population of 51,454 was well short of the real total.
But not really. The first thing to clear up is that this response rate refers only to the household survey forms that were not returned to the Census Bureau, not the overall response.
Census takers followed up with visits to households that either did not return their forms or never received them. This effort in 2010 resulted in an overall head count in the county much higher than 59 percent of the population.
It had to, otherwise that would mean Worcester’s real population would be in the 81,000 range, Ocean City, which posted the county’s lowest mail-in response rate, would have twice the population the Census Bureau says it does, and the county overall would have lost more than $64 million in government grants.
The best reason to complete and return the census questionnaire is that it’s less expensive than hiring people to knock on doors, and it helps make the survey more accurate.
The census is a massive undertaking that not only determines where government money flows, including state school funding, but also helps determine political boundaries and an area’s representation in the legislature and Congress.
For people of an anti-government mindset who argue that participating in the census is government snooping, forget it. If you pay income taxes, the government already knows you exist, so you might as well fill out the census form and help the county get some of that tax money back.