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2020 Census Tennessee Update

2020 Census: Tennessee Status Report for May 1, 2020

One month has passed since Census Day and Tennesseans have had a total of 50 days to respond to the 2020 Census. In addition to a “digital action weekend” running May 1-3, some additional COVID-19 related schedule adjustments have also been announced.

Overall Response Rate

Here is where the state stands as of April 29th:

  • 53.6% of Tennessee households have responded to the 2020 Census
  • The state ranks 27th nationally in terms of total response rate to date and trails the U.S. response rate by 1%
  • Tennessee bests surrounding states with the exception of Kentucky (#17) which sits at 57.4% of households responding thus far

In 2010, 67.1% of the state’s households self-responded to the Census, ranking Tennessee 22nd nationally. Changes to how participation is reported make it difficult to determine if the state is on pace to achieve that rate again. Peer states with similar 2010 response rates have out-paced Tennessee by 4% on average in 2020. The new online response option – which 79% of Tennessee households have used so far – will remain available through October 31, 2020, allowing ample time for households to self-respond. In our view, the restart of Census operations on June 1 and promotional efforts targeted toward to low response areas are important for the state to reach its 2010 mark.

Tennessee Peer State Response Rate

Response patterns across the state

After 45 days of responses, some trends are becoming evident. At the State Data Center we created an interactive County Response Rate Explorer dashboard that can be used to review regional response patterns (Metro areas, Development Districts, urban/rural, etc.).

Dashboard showing Tennessee Census responses by County

Some trends we’ve observed:

  • Rural counties responses are 3.5% lower than urban counties, 51.3% vs. 54.8% respectively.
  • Counties with the lowest response rate found in are in rural areas of Southwest TN Development District (44.1%), Southeast TN Development District (42.7%) and East TN Development District (47.1%)
  • 85% of Tennessee’s estimated 1.6 million self-responses so far came on or before April 3rd so it will be slow climb to 67%

To explore responses at the neighborhood level, we recommend using an excellent mapping tool from CUNY Center for Urban Research. It excels at highlighting trends in more populous areas such as Memphis and Nashville. Using this site, we see evidence that response rates have flattened below 2010 levels in some of the lower-responding neighborhoods.

Census Operations

The key update for this week is that the final 2020 Census reminders are hitting mailboxes this week:

  • Between April 27th and May 9th, households who haven’t completed a Census questionnaire will receive a final postcard reminder.
  • This last notice follows paper questionnaires that were mailed to non-responding households between April 8th and the 30th.
  • “Back of the envelope math” shows 1.6 million of the state’s 3 million residences would have received these paper forms.

The Bureau released an adjusted timeline for Census field operations impacted by COVID-19. A June 1 restart is targeted and some key tasks and milestones that will follow include:

  • Update Leave (June 13 – July 9) – Questionnaires in Grundy County and Norris will be delivered
  • Non Response Follow-up (August 11 – October 31) – Door to door follow-up to non-responding households
  • Apportionment Counts – Delivered to the President by April 30, 2021
  • Redistricting Counts – Delivered to states by July 31, 2021

NOTE: Tennessee’s deadline for completing local redistricting is January 1, 2022. Redistricting data is typically delivered by March 31. This four-month delay and the statutory requirements are worth noting.


This weekend (May 1st-3rd) will be a #2020Census Digital Action Weekend. Everyone is encouraged to use your platform as Complete Count Committee member to post about the Census. Te Census Bureau and partners nationally are working to tweet, post, and share social media content, so that the 2020 Census will trend this weekend.

  • hashtag #2020Census
  • Posts should encourage the completion of the census via self-response by Internet (, mail, and phone
  • Promote some aspect of the Census that is important to you or Tennessee (children and youth, funding guidance from the Census, importance of quality data).

The State Data Center stands aready to assist with any 2020 Census questions you have.