Surge in census mailings expected
By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
On three, smile.
Today is National Census Day, the designated day from which the U.S. Census Bureau bases its decennial "snapshot" of America.
As indicated on the official census forms, household counts are to be based on who is living in a particular residence on April 1.
Honolulu Census Office manager Winnie Wilson said this led to some confusion among those who thought they could not mail back their forms until today.
Regardless, Wilson said Hawai'i mail participation has been strong so far.
As of yesterday, 48 percent of households that received a census form had mailed back the form, compared with the national average of 52 percent.
In 2000, Hawai'i's response rate was just 60 percent, behind only Alaska (56 percent) and South Carolina (58 percent).
Wilson said she expects a "surge" in mailbacks after today.
Local census officials are urging residents to mail back their forms by April 19. (Those who have not received a form may pick up a replacement form at public libraries and other Be Counted sites.)
Starting in May, thousands of census takers will begin visiting residences for which forms have not been returned.
"If you mail back your form, nobody will knock on your door," Wilson said. "We promise."
The Honolulu and Wai'anae census offices continue to work with community groups to spread the word about the importance of participation.
Leeward Community College professor Raymund Liongson heads a census partnership committee focusing on Waipahu and Kalihi.
Noting that both districts have large Filipino populations, Liongson said that in addition to language concerns — which are easily remedied by the U.S. Census Bureau's multilingual help line — he and his fellow volunteers have to overcome residents' fear and distrust about how their information will be used.
"Some households have more people than is allowed, so the tendency is to not count beyond the limit," he said. "Others might have people who are not properly documented, so they either don't count those people or don't respond at all.
"We're about quelling those fears."