Southfield resident Leonard Adams, left, fills out the 2020 census at a census response event Sept. 11 at a local apartment complex.

Southfield resident Leonard Adams, left, fills out the 2020 census at a census response event Sept. 11 at a local apartment complex.

Photo by Donna Dalziel


Southfield in final push to improve census response numbers

By: Jacob Herbert | Southfield Sun | Published September 22, 2020

 The goal of these events is to get more people to fill out their census as Southfield is currently experiencing low numbers.

The goal of these events is to get more people to fill out their census as Southfield is currently experiencing low numbers.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

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SOUTHFIELD — Filling out the U.S. Census every 10 years has a lot more benefits than people may realize. The more residents who fill out the census in a certain area, the more federal funding that city will receive for things like roads, hospitals, schools and social programs such as WIC.

With just days to go until the Sept. 30 deadline, Southfield Mayor Ken Siver and city officials are making a push to get residents to fill it out.

The main effort has come from a series of census response events the city has put on starting in early September. Within the last month, these census response events have been held at various apartment complexes around Southfield in an attempt to raise the low self-response numbers from residents who rent.

Residents who attend these events can expect a group of workers equipped with a laptop and a blank census form. By filling out the census, residents gain access to a food truck for free.

“You don’t have to be a resident of the apartments to attend these events,” Siver said. “All you do is show up and there’s somebody there with a laptop and they’ll enter the data for you.”

Siver said the city has been working on a census response push since last October and is disappointed at where the response rate lies. As of Sept. 18, Southfield had a 70.2% self-response rate. Surrounding cities like Berkley had an 89% response rate, Royal Oak had 81.3% and Birmingham had 77.5%.

Despite Southfield’s numbers lagging behind surrounding cities’, U.S. Census Bureau Michigan Media Specialist Charmine Yates has been encouraged by the numbers in Southfield. The city is right on par with the average response rate in Michigan of 70.7%.

“We won’t be pleased until this is completed and we have the best response possible,” Yates said. “Since things are still going on, we’re just focused on the outcome and reaching our goals. It’s great that Southfield is doing so well, but we can always do better.”

Yates said the census bureau formed committees that consisted of all types of Southfield residents. She noted that people are more likely to open the door for someone who is familiar with the area. Aside from collecting census results, these Complete Count Committees collected feedback from residents on ways to improve the process.

“We let everyone know what a census worker would look like and what kind of information they would have,” Yates said. “There are so many ways that we engaged Southfield.”

There are plenty of other ways Southfield has tried to engage its residents on top of the response events. As COVID-19 began to overtake normal society, Siver ran out of ways to reach the public face to face. He turned to cable television. More people staying home meant more people watching TV. Siver said he received a grant to advertise the census on cable.

The mayor struck deals with local fast food restaurants, who placed census information in every bag of food before it was delivered to customers.

The Southfield school district provided meals for students even while school was not in session, and every student who received a box of food found census information mixed in.

“I hate to think where our count would be if we hadn’t done all of the things that we have,” Siver said. “I have to look at it on the positive side. We’re at 70%, which is about where the state of Michigan is, and we’re higher than the national average.”

Siver said a mistrust of government is one of the main reasons residents are hesitant to fill out a census. Many are unaware of who will see the information they share.

“There are some people who think that the data is going to be shared,” Siver said. “I have talked to people that are oblivious to the census and why it’s important. There may be people who have a criminal record or are here illegally. None of those things matter, because the data is not shared with any branch of government, and it’s kept confidential.”

The city will be holding one final census response event, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sept. 26 at the Beans & Cornbread restaurant on Northwestern Highway.

Residents who have not yet filled out their census and cannot attend the event are encouraged to visit 2020census.gov or call (844) 330-2020 to fill it out.

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