By Joel Hall
If you've recently received a knock on your door from a local Census worker, it's because the federal government has dispatched nearly 1,000 enumerators to homes in six south-metro counties that failed to mail in a 2010 Census form.
According to Census officials, more than 60 percent of those enumerators are working in Clayton and Henry counties to close the information gap.
Since May 3, the U.S. Census Bureau has sent more than 900 workers to retrieve census information from 115,000 households in Clayton, Henry, Rockdale, Newton, Butts, and Spalding counties.
According to Susan Burnore, Census office manager for the six-county region, 40 percent of the households are in Clayton and 21 percent are in Henry.
"We estimate that 40 percent of our workload will be in Clayton, so that is about 48,000 households," Burnore said. "[Henry County] is about 21 percent of our workload, which is about 24,000 homes. Our goal is to hire people to enumerate their own neighbors, when possible. I would say we have about 300 [enumerators] in the Clayton County area and about 250 people in the Henry County area."
The mail-in deadline for the 2010 Census was April 16. Overall, the south-metro area has fared better than the state of Georgia, as a whole, and the nation, in terms of mail-in response rates.
As of Tuesday, April 27, the national mail-in response rate was 72 percent.
Georgia's mail-in response rate was 70 percent, up one percentage point from the 2000 Census.
In the six-county, southeast-metro Census region, Henry and Spalding counties tied with the highest mail-in response rate of 74 percent. Newton had a 72 percent response rate, Rockdale and Butts had 71 percent, and Clayton came in last with 65 percent.
Burnore said the lower mail-in return rates in Clayton may be attributed to pockets of high-density apartment complexes, as well as areas where English is not the first language. While the cities of Jonesboro and Riverdale had rates of 70 percent and 67 percent, respectively, Morrow and Lake City had rates of 58 percent and 51 percent, respectively.
Forest Park had a 65 percent return rate, and Lovejoy had a 63 percent rate. Burnore said that despite Clayton having the lowest mail-in return rate, local residents have been helpful to enumerators making their way through neighborhoods.
"All the counties that we have covered are above the 70 percent rate, with the exception of Clayton, which is 65 percent, which still isn't bad," Burnore said. "We have not had difficulties in Clayton County. We've been pleasantly surprised at how reasonable people have been, and how willing they are to talk to our people in the field. We have a lot of employees who speak Spanish, Vietnamese, and even Russian, so that has been very helpful."
In Henry County, Locust Grove performed above average with a mail-in response rate of 79 percent. Hampton had a 71 percent rate, while Stockbridge and McDonough tied at 69 percent.
Burnore said local Census workers are paying particular attention to the north Clayton area, as well as downtown Stockbridge, where mail-in response rates have been lower than the state average. She said that Census workers are also busy around college campuses, such as Clayton State University and Oxford College, to catch people before summer recess.
"We do have a special emphasis on areas around schools and colleges, because we want to make sure that we get people before they go home for the summer," Burnore said. "Our enumerators have been very productive, because people have been so cooperative."