Bella Vista Among Cities Leading State in Census Self-Response

Fewer than half of Arkansas households have responded to the 2020 census, providing necessary information to the U.S. Census Bureau that will lead to millions of dollars coming to the state over the next decade.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports on one of its websites that Powhatan, a city in the northeastern part of the state, is Arkansas’ best-responding city so far with 65.6% of households providing information to the census as required.

Bella Vista ranks at No. 2 in the state with a 62.3% self-response rate. That commitment by the city’s residents increases the likelihood of a full, accurate count in the Benton County city.

Bella Vista Mayor Peter Christie said he started emphasizing the importance of the census in October, speaking on community television and to civic groups, church events and volunteer organizations about why the census matters so much to the city.

“I always stress that we have 550 miles of streets, more than the city of Little Rock and that state street funding is directly linked to census,” Christie said.

Northwest Arkansas’ overall self-response rate — 48.4% in Benton County and 44.7% in Washington County as of April 6 — isn’t much different than the statewide (42%) and national (44.5%) rates. Arkansas’ self-response rate ranks No. 35 among states as 640,000 households have responded.

A 2020 census webpage shows what percentage of households in every state, county, city and census tract in the nation have self-responded to the census online, by mail or by phone.

The Northwest Arkansas Council has prioritized obtaining a full and accurate count of the region’s population because of its importance. The Council’s EngageNWA program has worked to ensure that everyone in the region is counted for economic reasons, but also because everyone is a valued, contributing member of the community.

Much of the EngageNWA work has focused on getting large Northwest Arkansas companies to encourage their employees to participate in the census and in working directly with the region’s growing Hispanic/Latinx, Asian and Marshallese populations. Counting children, diverse populations and seniors is considered especially challenging, making it all the more important that the region focus on those populations.

Some of the nation’s highest self-response rates so far are in the Upper Midwest where Minnesota (53.9%), Wisconsin (51.8%), Michigan (51.3%) and Iowa (50.3%) are among states with the highest response rates. The lowest self-response rates are in the most rural states such as Alaska, West Virginia, Vermont, Wyoming and New Mexico.

Those who do respond to the census online, by mail or by phone increase the safety of census takers, who will begin visiting households to collect information, starting in late May. Those workers won’t visit households that have already responded to the census, decreasing the workers’ and the households’ chances of COVID-19 exposure.

The information collected by those census takers is scheduled to occur through Aug. 14.

The number of people in Northwest Arkansas who are self-responding to the census continues to rise, but there’s a long way to go. No. 2 Bella Vista, No. 10 Farmington, No. 12 Cave Springs and No. 14 Lowell are the only Top 20 responding cities in the state where the Census is tracking at least 500 cities’ response rates.

The self-response rates in other Northwest Arkansas cities as of April 6 include:

  • Avoca, 37.9%

  • Bentonville, 46.8%

  • Bethel Heights, 44.9%

  • Cave Springs 53.1%

  • Centerton, 44.3%

  • Decatur, 29.4%

  • Elkins, 50.6%

  • Elm Springs, 45%

  • Farmington, 53.6%

  • Fayetteville, 44.6%

  • Garfield, 42.2%

  • Gateway, 35.1%

  • Gentry, 34.8%

  • Goshen, 47.3%

  • Gravette, 44.1%

  • Greenland, 43.6%

  • Highfill, 46%

  • Johnson, 45.6%

  • Lincoln, 35.9%

  • Little Flock, 47.1%

  • Lowell, 52.4%

  • Pea Ridge, 48.4%

  • Prairie Grove, 50.4%

  • Rogers, 48.4%

  • Siloam Springs, 45.1%

  • Springdale, 45.8%

  • Tontitown, 49.6%

  • West Fork, 47.2%

The 2010 census, which didn’t have the option of responding online, saw southern states such as Arkansas self-respond at lower rates than their northern peers.

The Arkansas self-response rate was 62.3% in 2010, and most southern states were below 65%. Northern states generally achieved at least 65% and states such as Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Pennsylvania topped 70%.

A 2018 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau showed about 45% of survey participants knew the census that’s conducted every 10 years is used to help determine public funding amounts.