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NC Tops in Census Response, but Pockets of Mistrust Remain

April 29, 2010

DURHAM, N.C. - North Carolina is a "rock star" when it comes to the 2010 Census. The mail-in response rate is at 74 percent, up from 66 percent 10 years ago. But even with such good state numbers, there are still neighborhoods and communities where the response rate is much lower.

Avery Book is the census outreach coordinator for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Durham. He says volunteers will continue to try to raise the response rate as census workers start going door-to-door this weekend. He points out that those who are traditionally under-counted often have valid reasons for mistrust, which have to be acknowledged as part of re-establishing trust.

"People who haven't always been in the best of relationships with law enforcement or government don't trust that this information is not shared around."

Food festivals, art fairs and local gathering spots are targets for volunteers encouraging people to respond to the census in North Carolina.

Juvencio Peralta, president of the Association of Mexicans in North Carolina, says anyone with a concern about a census worker knocking at their door can contact his group, and a volunteer will go to the home to bridge any mistrust issues.

"We also go to churches, schools, just to make them aware of the importance of the census."

U.S. Census Bureau director Robert Groves admits Arizona's new immigration law could make some people in any area of the country nervous about answering census questions.

"No one need fear participating in the census. We're different than enforcement agencies, and we protect the data from use by enforcement agencies. We are re-doubling that message."

He says those going door-to-door are prepared to answer questions about the Arizona law.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - NC