Every ten years, the federal government embarks on a project of epic proportions. The United States Census aims to count every single citizen in the country and has been conducted each decade since 1790. It is no small feat to count over 300 million Americans even in the best of times, and every single participant is important.
The State of Colorado received roughly $2300 from each 2010 Census response. In 2016 alone, the state received $13 billion in federal funding based on Census data. Once the money has been allocated, state, county, and municipal governing bodies must decide where to invest it. “Data we collect from the census really helps us to form planning and funding decisions for communities around the county and locally” said Summit County Public Information Officer Jason Lederer. Census data informs how a huge variety of services are funded: everything from healthcare resources to recreational trails to election redistricting. “It is important to know not just who lives here but who spends a significant amount of time here so we can ensure our facilities and resources support that need” said Lederer.
In a typical Census year, mountain communities in Colorado face unique challenges in counting their populations and often see low response rates relative to the state and national average. Just as the Census kicks into gear in early April, many mountain towns bid farewell to ski season and the seasonal populations that come with it. Census coordinators rush to count seasonal employees as they disperse for summer work and second-home owners as they head back to their first homes. Most counties assemble Complete Counts Committees (CCCs) to address local challenges by coordinating county resources with local organizations to ensure everyone gets counted. According to Summit County CCC chairwoman Liz Burnham, the CCCs are convened by county government and include members from non-profits, businesses, and faith organizations. “It’s really a joint effort,” said Burnham. “Everyone brings their own perspective so we can have better outreach”.
Each county’s CCC tries to address Census challenges. Pizza parties sponsored by the Summit County CCC and hosted by large employers such as Vail Resorts have been utilized in the past to count ski resort employees. Door-to-door census takers have traditionally done well to capture the presence of second homeowners. In 2020, Covid-19 hit Colorado as many local organizations were beginning to mobilize major Census efforts. Many activities and events intended to increase Census participation were cancelled outright while an abbreviated ski season saw thousands of seasonal workers and second homeowners jettison from the county. While the self-response rate to the 2020 Census in Colorado hovers around 63%, response rates flag in the mountains.
Census Response Rates
|Summit County||Routt County||Colorado||United States|