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2020 Census Tennessee Update

2020 Census: Tennessee Status Report for March 31, 2020

Its been a very active Census season, with ongoing issues related to tornadoes and a global pandemic. This report provides updates regarding the progress of the 2020 Census across Tennessee. The census has been underway since mid-March and tomorrow, April 1st, is “Census Day.” This is a great day to promote self-response to residents across the state.

Response rate

As of March 29th, 35.2% of Tennessee households replied to their invitation – 27.8% using Internet response and 7.4% opting for paper forms or responding via phone.

  • Tennessee currently ranks 25th nationally in response rate. Kentucky ranks 24th at 35.4%
  • Nationally, of the 34.7% of households who have responded, 30.3% responded online. In Tennessee, that share is lower at 27.8%
  • You can view daily response rate updates for the state, counties, cities, congressional districts, even neighborhoods online. Encouragement, shame and friendly competitions are encouraged.

Suspension of Census Field Operations

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Census Bureau announced the suspension of all field operations until at least April 15th. This highlights the importance of continued promotion of 2020 Census self-response to minimize downstream impacts associated with these delays. Attached is a short assessment of each delayed operation. We continue to feel that the highest risks to a complete count resulting from the delays and the pandemic are associated with:

  • Counts of off-campus college students who have moved home and never received a Census invite (more below)
  • Mobile collection booth at events and public gathering operated by the Census Bureau and other partners
  • Enumeration of skilled nursing facilities and to lesser degree on-campus college housing
  • A few communities, including municipalities of Norris, as well as those in Grundy County may not have not received invites yet

In our view its difficult assess the impact on the Bureau’s largest operation, Non-Response Follow-Up, where door-to-door surveys of non-responsive households are conducted. The need for further pandemic-related delays and Tennessee’s self-response rate are the key factors. Boosting self-response rates solves most problems so we should continue to promote this.

March 3rd Tornadoes

Michelle Archer, Philadelphia-based Assistant Regional Census Manager overseeing Tennessee’s operations noted that Census staff have been working with local officials to be sure residents in the affected areas are included in 2020 counts. These efforts include:

  • Use of satellite imagery and National Weather Service data to review impacted areas, affected addresses, in coordination with local officials
  • Setting up Census Question Assistance booths at several disaster relief sites
  • Provided news media with messaging aimed at affected residents
  • In-person follow-up with non-responding households later this year

Off-Campus College Students

One of the more immediate concerns regarding the 2020 Census is reaching college students who live off-campus. Even if students have moved home, for the purposes of the Census, they are still counted on campus. With in-person classes suspended, some students have returned home and will never receive the census invite at the campus residence where they should be counted. Communications from colleges and universities directly to these students is the only way to reach this group. Working with committee members, THEC and TICUA, we’re reaching out to campuses across the state and sharing campaign materials that can be adapted for use by each campus and are designed to encourage self-response.


  • Tomorrow is Census Day and it’s a great day to use your platform as a Committee member and influential Tennessean to reach your constituents discuss the importance of responding online at or calling (844) 330-2020
  • Every household that has not responded to the Census will receive a paper form between April 8 and 16. This is another excellent opportunity to ask that state’s residents to respond.

If you have any questions or if the State Data Center can be of any help, please let us know.