Since mid-March, the United States Census Bureau has received 2020 Census forms from nearly 120 million households nationwide and has published information on the percentage of households that have self-responded on-line, by phone, or through the mail. These numbers are updated daily to help the Census Bureau and local groups ensure a complete count of people living in the United States as of April 1, 2020.

Self-response rates are calculated by dividing the number of responding households by the total number of households in the same area. This method often leads to an under-reporting of response rates since vacant households are included in the Census Bureau’s Masterfile of addresses. In a town with 60 occupied households and 40 vacant households, for example, the self-response rate reported by the Bureau could never exceed 60%, even if every occupied household responded.

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Relying on the 2018 ACS 5-Year Estimates, Image 1 lists the percentage of vacant households in Arkansas by county. Vacancy rates range from 7.1% to 38.3%, with the higher percentages clustered in the Northern, Eastern, and Southern parts of the state. The lower rates are generally located in Central and Northwest Arkansas. The counties with the lowest vacancy rates are Washington (7.1%), Lonoke (7.6%), Benton (8.3%), Craighead (8.9%), and Scott (9.6%). The ones with the highest are Newton (38.3%), Montgomery (35.5%), Lafayette (34.7%), Van Buren (34.3%), and Sebastian (33.6%).

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Image 2 indicates the self-response rate by county in Arkansas. It shows counties reporting rates ranging from 29.3% to 65.0% which roughly parallel the state’s vacancy rates (see image 1). Counties with higher vacancy rates have lower response rates, and those with lower vacancy rates have higher response rates. Approximately 56.7% of all Arkansas households self-responded.

Newton, Izard, Calhoun, Woodruff, and Lafayette counties have the lowest response rates, ranging from 29.3% to 39.7%. With the exception of Woodruff, each of these counties ranks among the ten counties with the highest vacancy rates. Conversely, Faulkner, Benton, Lonoke, and Greene have the highest self-response rates and the lowest vacancy rates. Self-response rates can change significantly, however, once vacant households are removed from the equation.

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Image 3 shows Arkansas’s self-response rate based on occupied housing units alone. This alteration increases the state self-response by nine percentage points to 65.8%. It also significantly alters county-wide self-reporting rates, jumping the county with the lowest rate from 29.3% to 46% and the highest from 61.9% to 93.1%.

While the percentages for many counties change drastically, the map looks much the same. The highest response rates are now concentrated around Pulaski County and north-central Arkansas, while the Northwestern and Northeastern parts of the state continue to have high response rates. Individual counties like Cleburne experienced a dramatic change, shifting from a self-response rate of 49.1% to 73.4%, Cleburne County went from 46 among 75 counties to the fourth highest response rate in the state.

Similarly, Van Buren increased its response rate from 46.1% to 70.2% and went from 54 to 12 in the county rankings. An additional 13 other counties also moved up at least ten spots, and Sebastian County, when its response rate is calculated on occupied housing, changes from 61.9% to 93.1% and achieves the state’s highest self-response rate.

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