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Interactive census map tracks local response

2010 U.S. Census

2010 U.S. Census Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant)

The U.S. Census Bureau Wednesday unveiled an interactive map that allows residents to track the percentage of households in their communities who mail back the census form, as the agency seeks to spur people to do that as soon as possible.

Census Bureau director Robert Groves said in a teleconference with the media that the map - developed in partnership with Google - could be used to foster "healthy competition" between jurisdictions. That "could actually lead to higher response rates nationally."

The map is available at the bureau's Web site: 2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map.

In 2000, 72 percent of households mailed back the census form, a figure the bureau hopes to best this year. Groves said every 1 percent increase in the "mail participation rate" saves taxpayers $85 million, since the bureau would need fewer census takers to go out to interview those who didn't return the form.

Groves said the map was a tool "to make the 2010 Census a truly transparent process."

Residents are asked to return completed Census forms April 1.

Groves cautioned against attaching great significance to the percentages now, since it's just one week since the bureau mailed the census form to about 120 million households. As of Tuesday, the map showed New York State with an 11-percent mail participation rate, compared to 16 percent nationally. "It's a good start, we think," Groves said.

Nassau County's rate was 17 percent and Suffolk's was 16 percent. The map allows the user to see the rates from smaller jurisdictions as well.

Affluent Garden City, for example, had a 19 percent mail participation rate so far, while the rate was 10 percent in neighboring Hempstead Village, one of the places considered hard to count because of large numbers of minorities and immigrants - areas where several nonprofits are focusing census outreach efforts.

"We're pleased that this endeavor from the bureau allows them [nonprofits] to look at these numbers almost in real time and make the tweaks" in their outreach, said Darren Sandow, executive director of the Hagedorn Foundation, part of the Long Island 2010 Census Collaborative that has provided $335,000 in grants to nonprofits for census outreach.

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