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Census return rates up for most of Northeast Georgia
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More Hall County and Northeast Georgia residents participated in the census this year than in 2000, according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The mail participation rate for Hall County went up three percentage points to 75 percent.

Georgia as a whole was up one percentage point, to 70 percent.

Nearly all of Northeast Georgia showed improvement. Oakwood saw the biggest participation gain. This year, participation jumped 19 percentage points to 73 percent. In 2000, it was 54 percent.

“What Hall County has accomplished is really quite incredible,” said Phillippa Lewis Moss, co-chairwoman of the Hall County Complete Count Committee. “It is a cumulative effect of census workers, volunteers, community members, elected officials — everyone working together to raise the bar so that Hall County receives the federal funding and representation we deserve.”

Hall County’s higher participation numbers will translate into millions more federal dollars for community infrastructure and services, officials said.

But not all areas saw their numbers go up.

Gainesville saw a decline of one percentage point, to a 68 percent participation rate. Gwinnett County’s participation dropped 7 percent and Forsyth County’s fell 4 percent.

Moss said Gainesville’s participation drop matches nationwide figures.

“Areas that are considered more urbanized, with more multifamily housing units, tended to have a slower rate of response,” Moss said. “It’s consistent with national trends.”

Many of Hall’s cities saw double digit increases in response rates.

Moss said rates likely increased in the 2010 census because the form is only 10 questions.

Lula went up 11 percentage points, Gillsville increased by 13 percentage points and Flowery Branch saw a 15 percentage point gain over the 2000 census.

“I think one of the reasons we were successful this year is we settled on a message very early, which was get the dollars,” Moss said. “And we were consistent and we didn’t deviate. It resonated with most people.”

Co-chairman William Lightfoot said improved education and efforts from the Complete Count Committee and the U.S. Census Bureau also likely helped.

“We went above and beyond and had a lot of visibility,” Lightfoot said. “That translated into not only meeting the 2000 census level but exceeding it.”

Starting Saturday, census workers will begin going door to door to collect information from people who did not return their census forms or who have post office boxes.

They will be out for the next few weeks, and Moss and Lightfoot said they hope the efforts will boost Hall County’s numbers.

“Seventy-five percent is a pretty good base to start at,” Lightfoot said. “We expect it’s going to improve significantly with the efforts of the census workers.”

Though the ultimate goal is to count 100 percent of Hall County, beating the 2000 census participation is a good start.

“We know we can do better, but we’re pleased,” Lightfoot said.

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