Forsyth was ahead of state and national averages, but 2010 Census organizers can’t help but be disappointed in the county’s mail-in response.
The tally decreased 4 percent from 2000 results.
“We all hoped that there would be 100 percent and we are grateful for the people who did participate, but I think it’s surprising and a little disappointing that those numbers are down,” said Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO James McCoy, who served as a member of the Forsyth Census Complete Count Steering Committee.
About 77 percent of county residents filled out and mailed back their 2010 Census questionnaire. The county boasted an 81 percent mail response during the 2000 Census, according to statistics provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.
In Georgia, about 72 percent participated by mailing in their response. The state came up just shy of the national rate of 74 percent.
Both the state and national rates remained the same as in 2000. About 120 million households nationwide received the 10-question survey that counts the nation’s population every 10 years.
Forsyth County School Superintendent Buster Evans, who led the county’s census committee, said the rate decrease was “certainly not because of a lack of effort.”
“I really think that everybody in our community worked very, very cooperatively to get people to feel comfortable with the census,” he said.
Evans said he was disappointed “but not necessarily surprised.”
“We had clearly hoped to see some increases,” he said. “I think from a larger standpoint, some people just have a tendency to distrust or not understand the full census process.”
While there was a decrease, Evans said, the joint effort of the chamber, city, county, school system and community at large probably resulted in “higher numbers than they would have otherwise been.”
Since 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau has changed the way it calculates rates.
Forsyth had previously worked to beat the 72 percent rate reported in 2000, but due to the change, that number is no longer being used.
“The mail participation rate takes out the vacant households,” said Mike Gregorio, bureau spokesman. “It’s taking out those foreclosed homes and homes that no one’s living in right now, whereas the [old way of calculating] did not take those variables out.”
By removing vacant homes, participation rates appear higher, but give a more accurate picture of occupied homes.
Despite the county’s campaign to encourage more participation, McCoy said the decrease could be “indicative of what’s going around the country.”
“It’s an overall idea of concern and, in my view, an unreasonable concern about … how much the government knows about me and what I’m doing,” McCoy said. “I certainly do understand where some of that concern comes from, but at the same time there’s so much that rides on these census numbers that it’s a shame some people didn’t participate more than that.”