Yale’s census participation rate is almost 100 percent, but only 53 percent of New Haven residents who were mailed a census form have responded.
New Haven’s relatively low participation rate — 13 percentage points below the national average — is cause for concern, four out of six aldermen interviewed said. But given the recent uptick in gun violence, Ward 23 alderman Yusuf Shah said he fears for the safety of the census counters, who go out into the city to count those who have not submitted their forms.
“We know there has been a lot of violence and New Haven right now may not be a walk in the park,” Shah said. “At the same time, we do have an obligation to go out there and get the numbers [of people in the city].”
Aldermanic president and Ward 29 alderman Carl Goldfield said the census is important because it affects how much federal aid the city receives, and Casey said census-dependent grants fund public services such as highway construction and repair, public school expansions, food stamps and library resources.
“Some people say I don’t need any help from the government,” she said. “But the streets you drive, the library you use, the hospital your children go to — everyone uses those services.”
Fernanda Casey, New Haven’s director of census planning, said it is hardest to get people from Fair Haven and the Hill neighborhoods to participate because many of them are undocumented. She said her team has put up fliers assuring residents that they will not be deported for filling out the census.
The city has also tried to reach out to residents through community organizations and religious groups. For instance, Casey said city workers set up questionnaire assistance centers at black community churches last Sunday.
Ward 3 Alderwoman Jacqueline James-Evans said she expects New Haven’s actual census participation rate to increase after census workers complete their rounds in the neighborhoods. Still, some people are simply not going to fill out the census forms they were mailed, Shah said, and so going door-to-door is the only way to get their information.
Casey also noted that the participation rate does not account for forms filled out in groups (such as those of Yale students) or at questionnaire assistance centers. Casey said it is too difficult right now to calculate the actual participation rate because non mail-in census forms does not have a barcode on them and takes longer to process.
Ward 7 alderwoman Frances “Bitsie” Clark said the mail-in form is the most convenient way for many of her constituents to fill out the census because they live in apartments that are difficult for census workers to reach when they go knocking door-to-door.
For the 2000 census, New Haven’s mail participation rate was 59 percent, 13 points below the national average.