Isles' census response encouraging
By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
Roughly one week since Census 2010 forms began arriving in mailboxes, Hawai'i's mail participation rate is just above the national average — an encouraging sign for census officials given the state's disappointing mailback rate a decade ago.
As of yesterday, 32 percent of Hawai'i residences that received a census form had mailed the form back.
The national participation average was 29 percent.
The U.S. Census Bureau adopted mail participation this year as a more effective means than traditional "mail response" method of gauging census participation. The mail participation rate reflects the percentage of forms mailed back by households that received them. This rate excludes households whose forms were returned by the U.S. Postal Service as "undeliverable," an indication that the house was vacant.
In 2000, the national response rate was 67 percent. Under the new mail participation measure, the rate would translate to 72 percent.
Census workers will still conduct follow-up visits to all residences for which a form has not been returned.
Honolulu leads all counties with a 34 percent mail participation rate, followed by Kaua'i (32 percent), Hawai'i (30 percent) and Maui (27 percent). Kalawao, the unincorporated town on Moloka'i's Kalaupapa Peninsula, has a zero participation rate so far.
In the 2000 Census, Hawai'i residents had the third-lowest response rate (60 percent) in the nation.
Eugene Tian, research and statistics officer for the Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism's Research and Economic Analysis Branch, said the early participation results are encouraging but cautioned that they do not guarantee an overall improvement.
"It's too early to say," Tian said. "It's a good sign, but the hard-to-count areas are still participating at a lower rate."
A census tract aptly named Civic Circle boasts the highest mail participation rate in the state so far at 55 percent, followed by three other O'ahu census tracts — Ho'ohulu Street (52 percent), He'eia Kea (50 percent) and Wai'alae Iki (50 percent).
Local census tracts with the lowest mail participation rates are Ni'ihau (0 percent); Kahauiki (6 percent) and Waikīkī Beach (9 percent).