Macomb County led nation in census response rate

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published November 17, 2020

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MACOMB COUNTY — When it comes to the 2020 U.S. Census, Macomb County is setting records.

Local officials recently revealed that among counties with over 500,000 residents, Macomb County topped the nationwide response rate for successful census results at 81.8%.

That is an increase of more than 6% compared to 2010 results, when the county’s final response rate was 75.4%.

The state of Michigan as a whole also represented well above the national response rate average of 67%, with about 71.3% of Michiganders filling out the form by mail, phone or online. Michigan ranked eighth in the country in response rate.

All 27 of the county’s communities had response rates above the state average, actually, and Macomb County ranked only behind Livingston County’s 82.5% on a statewide basis.

Ernest Cawvey, director of Macomb Community Action, said that 81.8% number is formulated in a variety of factors, including population estimates updated regionally based on other annual surveys. Statisticians project what smaller sample sizes imply for larger regions.

Cawvey joined Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and others March 3 to discuss the importance of completing the Census in terms of allocating more funding to regions and the state. The nation flipped on its head about two weeks later.

“Ever since 2019, Macomb County has been preparing to support the 2020 census,” Cawvey said. “As COVID emerged, we knew we would have a lot of challenges — there would be a lot of barriers to completion, and a lot of constraints.”

He said plans were adjusted as best as possible, dealing with the confluence of the ever-changing pandemic while also acknowledging that county resources, such as staffing and funding, were impacted.

While energy, time and resources were being allotted to deal with coronavirus, the county adapted in little ways to make a difference — such as canceling community picnics and instead conducting drive-thru lunch distributions that encouraged residents to fill out forms.

“The tremendous response rate for the Macomb County self-response rate was really due to the partnerships across the county,” Cawvey said, referring to subsidized housing complexes, nonprofit organizations, individual municipalities and local businesses. “I think one of the things that happened due to COVID was that more residents understood how important their local government is during a crisis.”

That includes how money is allocated to deal with consistent matters, such as road or school funding, or how to keep small businesses afloat.

Moving forward, the census will have a couple major impacts: one, it will be used to determine how federal funding and legislative representation is affected, including the number of federal legislators at the state and national levels in terms of delegates; and how federal funding formulas are distributed to schools, small businesses, road projects, Medicare and Medicaid, food programs such as SNAP benefits, and school lunch programs.

As Cawvey put it, “Whoever you are and whatever you care about, someone is affected.”

“One of the parallels that is really important to me is public participation in government, whether that is the census or whether it is voting,” he added. “It’s about people being represented in government, or participating in government.”

For full census results statewide and nationally, visit