Census: Where do we stand? What’s next?

As a lead organization in Nebraska Counts, our state’s complete count committee, Civic Nebraska is invested in ensuring a successful 2020 count. Here's where things stand as September begins.


The U.S. Census is entering its final push. As of this writing, our national once-a-decade headcount is scheduled to end Sept. 30.* As a lead organization in Nebraska Counts, our state’s complete count committee, Civic Nebraska is invested in ensuring a successful 2020 count.

Of course, the most reliable, private, and stress-free way to get counted is by self-responding. Do it online here or get it done by phone – here’s everything you need to know about dialing up the U.S. Census Bureau and getting counted.

Meantime, let’s take a look at Nebraska’s progress as we hit the home stretch.

Our state is representing.

For much of 2020, the battle for the top self-response state has been among a handful of Big Ten states – Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Since late spring, Minnesota has been locked in at No. 1, with our very own Cornhusker State bouncing around anywhere from No. 2 to No. 5. At some point this summer, too, Washington made a big push to represent the Pac-12 near the top of the state rankings, breaking up the Big Ten monopoly (shakes fist).

Where’s Nebraska right now? Our homeland is currently No. 4 at 70.5 percent – just shy of our state’s 2010 response rate, which came in at 71.1 percent.

There is still time to surpass 2010’s statewide number, Nebraskans. If you haven’t yet, don’t delay – respond to the census today! Everything from school money to road funds to jobs and economic development funding to number of seats in Congress depends on our state having as complete and as successful a count as possible. It takes all of us to make sure Nebraska receives its appropriate share of the federal funding pie starting in 2021. The good news is, it’s super-easy to get counted.

Our towns and cities are amazing.

Among U.S. cities with populations of 250,000 or more, Lincoln’s self-response rate (76.8 percent) is tops in the nation. No. 1! Meanwhile, Omaha checks in at No. 8 nationally among cities of 450,000 or bigger, which is worthy of some big ups.

Across the state, our cities – defined for the purposes of our rankings as municipalities greater than 20,000 residents – have also answered the call. Papillion, Columbus, Bellevue, Norfolk, Hastings, Kearney, Grand Island, and Fremont all have eclipsed 70 percent in self-response rate. Well done!

What is Nebraska’s top self-response community, regardless of population? Shout-out to the good people of Harbine, population 49 in Jefferson County. The village currently holds the top spot at 84.6 percent. Right behind are Waverly (83.6), Papillion (82.5), Malcolm (82.2), and St. Helena (82.1).

These are solid self-response numbers. If you have not yet, self-respond to the census. It’s the easiest and most reliable way to be counted. Go here to get started.

Our counties rock.

Sarpy County (78.6 percent) leads all Nebraska counties with more than 10,000 residents, followed closely by Lancaster (77.2), Seward (77.0), Washington (76.5), and Platte (74.3). Douglas County, our largest county, is at 72.1 percent and climbing.

There’s still time for these numbers to move, of course, but this has been a pretty steady pattern since this spring when the pandemic first struck and many Nebraskans had the time and opportunity to self-respond.

Can there be a shake-up in this, the final* month of the census? Time will tell.

But we’re not done. Here’s what’s next.

If you haven’t yet, respond to the census by phone or online. Self-responding ensures accuracy because you’re answering the census questions yourself privately and on your own time.

Nebraskans who haven’t yet completed the census can expect enumerators – another term for census-takers – to visit their door. Enumerators will complete the census with you at your door on an electronic device. If they miss you, they’ll leave a Notice of Visit note on your door, which will have instructions for self-responding and completing your census online or over the phone.

If enumerators are unable to reach your household, then they will ask your landlord or a property manager for your information.

This isn’t ideal, because third-party information can be inaccurate. So again, respond online or by phone for accuracy.

An important note about census takers.

Nebraskans who have completed their census could still receive a visit. Enumerators might visit to verify information; the Census Bureau has noted that enumerators may visit some households to request other surveys, such as the American Community Survey, to be completed. These other surveys, produced by the Census Bureau, are also important, but they ask a lot of questions that are not on the census, and they are longer than the basic census questionnaire.

Give grace. We’re still in a pandemic.

Please, be kind to your enumerator. They’re your neighbors and community members, and they’re doing their best to help their community. They will be wearing a face covering, will be practicing physical distancing, and are making census visits because they value the importance of Nebraska getting an accurate and complete count.

Enumerators will have a photo ID badge, a satchel-style bag with the U.S. Census logo, and an electronic tablet. They will also carry a variety of census materials, such as the notice of visit slips and other fliers – but enumerators will only complete census surveys on their electronic device. They’ll have no paper forms for you.

Let’s get it done, Nebraska!

* – The Census Bureau announced that it is ending door-to-door outreach efforts at the end of September, a month earlier than originally planned. If 2020 has taught us anything, however, it’s that things change. We’ll be sure to let you know if that end-date changes.

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