Census, Local

Atlanta’s Response Rate To Census At 50%: ‘That Is Still Extremely Low,’ Mayor Says

According to The Urban Institute, Georgia is one of the states most at risk of an undercount in 2020. Census numbers determine billions of dollars in federal funding every year.
According to The Urban Institute, Georgia is one of the states most at risk of an undercount in 2020. Census numbers determine billions of dollars in federal funding every year.
Credit Paul Sancya / Associated Press
'Add to My List' icon 'Added to My List' icon Add to My List In My List

About half of the households in Atlanta have filled out the 2020 census. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says that’s not enough.

On a call with City Council about COVID-19 updates Thursday, the mayor also urged council members to get the word out about the count.

“We have hit the 50% mark, but that is still extremely low. So please encourage everyone to fill out their census forms,” she said.

Nationally, nearly 60% of households have filled out the questionnaire. Census numbers determine billions of dollars in federal funding every year. And the mayor wants to make sure the city gets its fair share.

That money is used for schools, roads and hospitals. It’s also used to determine funding for federal programs, including SNAP, Pell Grants and small business loan programs.

Groups the Census Bureau has traditionally undercounted include renters, immigrants and African Americans. It also has a growing problem of counting children under 5 years old. In 2010, Georgia had one of the highest undercounts of young children.

In 2010, the percentage of households in Atlanta that mailed back their census forms was 59%. The Census Bureau attempts to get those who don’t self-respond by knocking on doors. 

“We seem to be on track to have a better response rate than we did in 2010,” the mayor said. But she added that Atlanta’s response rate was still low. The state’s response rate is about 54%.

The 2020 census is the first where most people can fill out the questionnaire online. Areas of the city with low response rates in 2010 included Peoplestown, Mechanicsville and English Avenue. According to The Urban Institute, Georgia is one of the states most at risk of an undercount in 2020.

Federal money has been crucial in emergency funding during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On a call in April, the mayor told City Council that Atlanta received $88 million in direct funding through the CARES Act. According to the mayor, the city was eligible because it met the population threshold of 500,000 or more.