Oswego County catching up with census response rate

Local officials are urging Oswego County residents to complete their 2020 United States Census. The once-a-decade count of all people in the United States has adapted to COVID-19, like the official Census enumerator pictured.

OSWEGO — Oswego County and the surrounding region got off to a slow start with the 2020 Census response due to the coronavirus pandemic, but are catching up, Census Bureau officials told The Palladium-Times Tuesday.

The Oswego County self-response percentage was at 58.9 percent as of Tuesday with 46.2 percent of responses coming through the internet since March, according to the bureau’s website. The 2010 final self-response tally was 63.5 percent.

“We’re about 4.5 percentage points behind right now … but when you look at what this area of the country went through at the beginning of the census, it makes sense,” New York Regional Director Jeff T. Behler said. “One of the best things we have for hard-to-count areas, which include rural areas or urban areas with densely populated communities, is our ability to get out there, to have our partners be at a farmers’ market or a food distribution site or the library talking about the census. … That’s something that was taken away due to COVID-19.

“We’re starting to ramp that back up in small scale, doing it safely while practicing social distancing, and we’re hoping that will drive up the self-response.”

The national self-response rate is 62.6 percent, with Minnesota leading the way at 71.9 percent. New York state is behind the national percentage, with 58.1 percent of residents filing self-responses.

Oswego County’s self-response percentage is in the middle when ranked against its neighboring counties.

While Onondaga County (66), Madison County (61.2) and Oneida County (60.6) each have a higher percentage of self-responses, Oswego County is ahead of Cayuga County (56.4), Jefferson County (44.6) and Lewis County (41.4).

Fulton has had 60.9 percent of households self-respond to the census, while the city of Oswego’s self-response percentage is 57.8 percent. In 2010, Fulton was at 72 percent, and Oswego was at 68.1 percent.

Behler said SUNY Oswego students living off-campus should be counted in Oswego, and not on their parents’ forms back home.

“The urban, more densely populated areas, are normally lower and the suburbs are doing extremely well. That’s a trend we’ve seen,” Behler said. “Another trend we’re concerned about are college students, especially in upstate New York. … when you look at some of the lowest response rates, some of those tracts are … where college students rent apartments. A lot of those college students left before their invitation arrived in the mail, and more than likely their parents included them in their forms back home because that’s where the student was to finish their semester.

“They really need to be counted where they live or normally stay as of April 1, which would’ve been that off-campus apartment.”

According to the census website, the town of Volney leads the way for Oswego County towns in self-response at 70.8 percent, followed closely by Minetto at 69.8 percent. The western and southern portions of the county aren’t far behind: Palermo (69), Hastings (68.4), Granby (65.5), the town of Oswego (64.6), Scriba (64), Schroeppel (63.9) and West Monroe (63.1).

The northern end of Oswego County is lagging behind in self-response. Redfield only has 19.3 percent of households responding, while Orwell is at 31 percent.

“It’s certainly understandable, especially with COVID-19, that not every community has the resources they need, and that’s where we try to fill in the gaps the best we can,” Behler said. “We have printed materials we send to our partners directly that talk about the importance of the census for their type of community.”

The census provides a snapshot of the population across the United States every 10 years. The results are used by the government to determine representation in government, federal funding and many other aspects of life in America.

“As far as representation, the number of seats New York state will have in the next Congress will be based on the 2020 census, so it’s important to get the complete and accurate count for when those decisions are made … and states will use this for redistricting purposes for drawing their voting precincts,” Behler said. “Businesses will also use this data to determine where they want to expand. They’re going to want to go places where there’s a customer base or open facilities where they have the ability to hire people. … Then there’s hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funding for things like schools … road, bridges, tunnels, parks … and I can’t think of a better reason to fill out your 2020 Census than health care. We’ve seen strains throughout the country on our health care system, but this is a great way to support your community by making sure it gets its fair share for hospitals, emergency personnel and supplies.”

The information gathered for the census is protected under federal law, Behler said, and cannot be released to other government agencies. Any data is released on a city, town or census tract level, not on an individual or household basis.

Behler said trackers this month will begin knocking on doors at households who didn’t respond to the census. They will be practicing social distancing and wearing masks.

The bureau set a goal of a 60.5 percent self-response rate nationally before knocking on doors, and that has been achieved.

“When you look at New York state being the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the beginning, it’s amazing at what they’ve done,” Behler said. “It really is a testament to the work our partners have put in over the last two years.”

For more information or to respond to the census, go to 2020census.gov.

“It’s not too late,” Behler said. “Yes, we ask about April 1, but you can fill out the census all the way up to the end of October. We just ask people to remember when you’re filling it out, treat it as if it were April 1. We’re asking who was living there April 1.”

The first U.S. Census was commissioned in 1790, about a year after the inauguration of President George Washington, and asked six questions, including the name of the family and number of persons in each household that were free white males above and below the age of 16, free white females, other free persons and slaves. The 1790 census recorded a national population of 3,929,214.

Oswego County was formed in 1816 from portions of Oneida and Onondaga counties. Below is the national and county census population data for each decade following the formation of Oswego County:



U.S. population: 9,638,453

Oswego County:12,374


U.S. population: 12,866,020

Oswego County: 27,119


U.S. population: 17,069,453

Oswego County: 43,619


U.S. population: 23,191,876

Oswego County: 62,198


U.S. population: 31,443,321

Oswego County: 75,958


U.S. population: 38,558,371

Oswego County: 77,941


U.S. population: 50,189,209

Oswego County: 77,911


U.S. population: 62,979,766

Oswego County: 71,883


U.S. population: 76,212,168

Oswego County: 70,881


U.S. population: 92,228,496

Oswego County : 71,664


U.S.: 106,021,537

Oswego County: 71,045


U.S.: 123,202,624

Oswego County: 69,645


U.S.: 132,164,569

Oswego County: 71,275


U.S.: 151,325,798

Oswego County: 77,181


U.S.: 179,323,175

Oswego County: 86,118


U.S.: 203,302,031

Oswego County: 100,897


U.S.: 226,542,199

Oswego County: 113,901


U.S.: 248,709,873

Oswego County: 121,771


U.S.: 281,421,906

Oswego County: 122,377


U.S.: 308,745,538

Oswego County: 122,109

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