Brooklyn Boro

Despite the pandemic, Brooklynites are returning their census forms

The city's response rate for the 2020 Census is so far 75 percent higher than in 2010.

March 23, 2020 Paula Katinas
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An all-out effort by local entities like Brooklyn Community Board 11 to spread the word on the importance of filling out the 2020 Census could be paying dividends.

The U.S. Census Bureau released the initial response rates to the 2020 Census. Figures for New York City, while low compared to the national average, still showed a significant increase in the number of people filling out and returning the form, even as the city is grappling with the coronavirus crisis.

The city’s response rate during the first week census forms were available was 10.5 percent, a rate that is 75 percent higher than the first week in 2010, when it was 6 percent. The city’s response rate was three percentage points lower than the nationwide rate. Overall, the state of New York had a 12.2 percent response rate.

“The initial self-response data shows that the unprecedented citywide Census 2020 campaign is resonating and that New Yorkers, particularly in this critical time, want to ensure that we receive the resources and representation we deserve,” NYC Census 2020 Director Julie Menin said in a statement.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

Self-response refers to residents who fill out the form by mail or online, as opposed to residents who answer the door and find a census taker in their doorway.

Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed Menin to spearhead the city’s $40 million Census 2020 initiative, an effort that includes working with community-based groups to reach out to residents to convince them to fill out the census form.

Community Board 11, which represents Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Mapleton and parts of Gravesend, started its own Census program earlier this year. Chairperson William Guarinello appointed an ad hoc committee and tapped board member Dr. Tim Law to head it.

“The Census is so important. We did not have a good response in our neighborhood last time around. We want to change that,” Law told the Brooklyn Eagle.

The Census, which is mandated in the U.S. Constitution, is conducted once every 10 years.

Under Law’s leadership, the Board 11 committee is working in partnership with local groups like the Chinese American Social Services, the Federation of Italian American Organizations, the Marks Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, the Muslim American Society, Reaching-Out Community Services and the United Chinese Association on outreach efforts in areas that are at risk of being undercounted. 

Law said a letter that has been translated into Arabic, Chinese, Italian, Russian and Spanish is being mailed to residents urging them to respond to the census with the goal of ensuring every resident in the community is counted. 

Board 11 is stepping up its efforts to reach non-English speaking residents out of necessity, officials said.

A 2018 Community Health Profile compiled by the New York City Department of Health found that 56 percent of the 205,000 residents living in Board 11 are foreign-born. Forty-seven percent have limited English proficiency. 

New Yorkers can respond to the 2020 Census now by visiting or by calling 1-844-330-2020.

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