Washington State Office of Financial Management: Census “Hard To Count Areas” Interactive

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It’s official – we are in the year 2020. Perhaps the most important thing regarding the convergence of data, every resident of the U.S., and federal funds will take place this year: the 2020 Decennial Census, which has taken “years of research, planning, and development of methods and infrastructure to ensure an accurate and complete count.”

The Washington State Office of Financial Management (OFM) has developed an interactive website showing “Hard to Count Areas” at both the census block group and census tract levels. Although its name does not suggest it, OFM is the source for population estimates for years in-between each decennial census, including Total Population & Annual Growth Rate and Share of Population by Age Groups on Chelan-Douglas Trends.

federal funds will take place this year: the 2020 Decennial Census, which has taken “years of research, planning, and development of methods and infrastructure to ensure an accurate and complete count.”

The Washington State Office of Financial Management (OFM) has developed an interactive website showing “Hard to Count Areas” at both the census block group and census tract levels. Although its name does not suggest it, OFM is the source for population estimates for years in-between each decennial census, including Total Population & Annual Growth Rate and Share of Population by Age Groups on Chelan-Douglas Trends.

As defined, census block groups divide groups of people by a feature, such as mountains, streams, roads, railroad tracks, and city or county boundaries capturing between 600 and 3,000 (optimum = 1,500) people. A census tract generally represents a neighborhood capturing between 2,500 and 8,000 (optimum = 4,000) people.

Because “there are certain socioeconomic and demographic factors that include age, housing status, and language that can influence self-response”, OFM uses historically influential variables to analyze why people didn’t respond to the Census in the past. The methodology yields a Low Response Score for every census tract and census block in the state. 

Variables include an area having high proportions of: low- or no-income households, living in rural areas, families with kids under the age of 5, single-parent households, homelessness, renters (or movers), foreign-born, and low educational attainment levels.

The aggregate carrot for replying? Nearly $300 million in federal funds dispersed to the two counties. The stick? People can be fined for lying in their responses, submitting an incomplete survey, or failing to respond at all. Census workers will follow-up at non-responding addresses until there is a valid reason to explain no response (such as a vacant residence). Since 2020 is the first decennial Census where responding online is highly preferred by the Census, whether or not a household has a computer and internet access become variables to the overall response rate. While the absence of either doesn’t mean a non-response is inevitable, they are now predictors since lacking either makes responding more difficult and time consuming.

Typically, this is where we usually offer a little insight into what is going on locally within the interactive map we are highlighting. Since census block groups and tracts aren’t locations recognizable by name, but are when viewing them on a map, we suggest exploring the interactive to see the Low Response Scores for us and our counterparts across the state, but to also learn more about the location of census block groups and tracts in Chelan and Douglas Counties.  

Click here for the full Washington State interactive map.

Click here for static maps of each county in Washington State individually.

by Chelan-Douglas Trends Staff