As a way to help stakeholders target effort and resources, the Rockefeller Institute of Government developed an “At-Risk Community Index.”
Using Hard-to-Count Communities data from the CUNY Mapping Service at the Center for Urban Research, CUNY Graduate Center, we took 500 out of the approximately 4,900 census tracts in New York State with the worst self-response rates from the 2010 census. We then compared the 500 communities with the lowest response rates against 10 indicators of categories that have been undercounted in the past or could more likely be undercounted because of the citizenship question and the use of online forms: (1) children under five years old, (2) black, (3) Hispanic, (4) over 65 years of age, (5) limited English speaking, (6) poverty, (7) renters, (8) single parents, (9) foreign born, and (10) no internet. We then divided the census tracts into quintiles by category. For example, the 20 percent census tracts with the lowest percentage of foreign born received a 1, while the 20 percent of the census tracts with the highest percentage received a 5. This was done for each of the 10 categories. All the categories were added up to give the census track a total number between 10 and 50. Census tracts closer to 50 are the areas that will be the most difficult to count in the 2020 census.
Creating an index using quintiles allows us to control for the various categories and determine which communities are facing the most significant challenges across all indicators. Moreover, an index allows stakeholders to see the specific issues that need to be addressed in the state’s hardest-to-reach communities. For example, in some cases it may be the lack of internet service or potential digital literacy issues with a high percentage of older adults in a community. In some cases, it could be both.