Low Response, the 2020 Census Deadline Has Been Extended

With a Less Than Preferable Response Rate, the City of Detroit Will Use the Extra Month To Boost Responses From Residents


September 30 was set to be the deadline for responding to the 2020 Census after months of COVID-19 pandemic related delays and extensions. However, in the wake of the still ongoing crisis, a federal judge in California has ruled that the count must be extended for another month.

While the response from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross indicates that the extension will not be enforced as ruled, the date has indefinitely been moved past the September 30 deadline into October. A move to delay the deadline helps cities like Detroit that still struggle with getting a complete response.


According to information from the Census Bureau, Michigan has a self-response rate of 71 percent, just above the national average of 66.4 percent. Now when looking solely at Detroit, The Bureau reports that the city is currently sitting at a self-response rate of 50.4 percent, a number that, while low, should rise once the count is complete.

According to Detroit’s Census director, there are three primary reasons as to why Detroit’s response rate is so low at the moment.

“One is that the count is based on approximately 380,000 addresses that the Census Bureau has in their file. So it has tons of vacant lots on it, tons of vacant houses and apartment buildings. We know, based on our records, utility records and our surveys that we’ve done, that there are only about at most probably 270,000 occupied housing units and residential units in the city. So there’s a big gap between 270 occupied units and 380,000 addresses that they’re using,” shared Vicki Kovari, 2020 Census Director for the City of Detroit. “So that’s 50 percent response rate, it’s going to go up, and the Census Bureau will recalculate that response rate after the census is over and they’ll take out all the vacant addresses.”

“The second thing is that apartment buildings are notoriously difficult to count in any census. But this year, it’s been even more difficult because so many people, especially in Midtown, Downtown, and around Wayne State, just left their apartments to wait out the virus somewhere else. So Wayne State, Midtown, and some areas of downtown are among the lowest response rates in the city because of that,” added Kovari.

“Apartment buildings are normally hard to count because apartment management is very reluctant to share information and a lot of them aren’t even allowing the Census Bureau workers access to those units to knock on those doors of people that haven’t responded,” she continued. “So we’ve been encouraging them, you are required to share information with the Census Bureau. A lot of those gated communities and such, they’re just hard to count.”

Another factor Kovari points out for a lower response rate in Detroit is the reluctance of many immigrant communities to respond over fears stoked by President Trump.

“The other area that’s low, that’s impacting our response rate, are the immigrant communities in the city, especially in southwest Detroit, for obvious reasons,” adds Kovari. “The Trump administration’s efforts to exclude undocumented residents from the count for redistricting and the whole failed attempt to get a citizenship question on the 2020 census. All those factors have been a bit chilling for the response rate in those communities.”


While the City of Detroit planned events leading up to the September 30 deadline, the Census organizers in the city have now found themselves with extra time. With colder weather coming and the pandemic stressing the need for outdoor activities, much of the cities outreach will need to be carefully planned.

For the moment, future plans could include 2020 Census outreach at Halloween in the D, involvement in food distribution efforts, as well as increased online outreach. With an event that includes a VISA gift card giveaway taking place on Wednesday, September 30, the Census Bureau has stated that if the event is successful, a similar event could take place in October.

Have you filled out your 2020 Census form yet? If not, then head to 2020CENSUS.GOV to be sure that you’re counted.

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