Far fewer people have responded to the 1990 Census than expected, said Census Bureau Director Barbara Bryant, who still promised an accurate, if more costly, head count.
"As of today, the national check-in response rate is only 57 percent," Bryant told a news conference Thursday. "We're at a critical point. We have had a good response from some areas and a disappointing one from many others. If this slow response rate continues, it will cost the American taxpayer."She said the integrity of the count is not at issue. "What we're talking about is the cost difference."
Census officials said they had hoped to have a 70 percent return of 90 million census forms that were put in the mail at the end of March. A census taker will visit those addresses not mailing back forms.
"For each 1 percent of the mail return that falls below our 70 percent rate, we will need an additional $10 million to hire, train and pay enumerators to complete the job on the doorsteps of America," Bryant said.
It also means that an additional 950,000 homes and apartments will have to be visited in person.
On Wednesday, officials from a number of cities, including New York and Los Angeles and the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities, said they would return to court to force the Census Bureau to adjust its 1990 count to correct for a predicted undercount of minorities and other hard-to-reach people.
The census is used to allocate seats in the House of Representatives and state legislatures. It also determines how much money states, cities and other jurisdictions receive from a host of federal programs.
State-by-state census response:
South Dakota 68.3
North Dakota 66.4
West Virginia 59.0
North Carolina 56.8
Rhode Island 56.6
New Jersey 55.0
New Hampshire 54.8
New Mexico 52.4
New York 51.9
South Carolina 48.9