Chicago’s Mayor Calls On The Dreadhead Cowboy To Boost Census Response In The City

Dreadhead cowboy dismounts his horse
Adam Hollingsworth, known as the dreadhead cowboy, stands on his horse during a ride in Chicago in May. Hollingsworth has gained notoriety for his rides through Chicago communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, calling him the census cowboy, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is calling on Hollingsworth to help boost census response rates where it has been low in the city. María Inés Zamudio / WBEZ News
Dreadhead cowboy dismounts his horse
Adam Hollingsworth, known as the dreadhead cowboy, stands on his horse during a ride in Chicago in May. Hollingsworth has gained notoriety for his rides through Chicago communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, calling him the census cowboy, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is calling on Hollingsworth to help boost census response rates where it has been low in the city. María Inés Zamudio / WBEZ News

Chicago’s Mayor Calls On The Dreadhead Cowboy To Boost Census Response In The City

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story stated that enumerators will knock on doors to non-responding households starting August 11. The date has been updated to July 30.

With just over half of Chicagoans filling out the census, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday gave the city a “C” grade when it comes to responding to the decennial count.

Just under 55% of Chicagoans have responded to the census, compared to 62% nationally. In some communities — particularly in neighborhoods with large immigrant populations — that number drops even below 30%, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“To every community where your responses are low, please step up,” Lightfoot said in a news conference in the Garfield Park neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side.

She added that the census is tied to resources from the federal government. “If you want more resources on the West Side, [if] you want more resources on the South Side … the census is the key,” Lightfoot said.

The areas with response rates below 30% include four census tracts in the New City community on the South Side, including three nestled together in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. Two more such areas are found in the Little Village neighborhood. And the Englewood, South Chicago and West Englewood communities each have an area where the response has been below 30%, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

In contrast, census response rates have topped 80% in parts of the Forest Glen and Norwood Park communities on the North Side and the Beverly community on the South Side.

Lightfoot said the city’s “robust community engagement plan” for census outreach was sidetracked by COVID-19. “But we’re doing a full-court press now to make sure that we boost the numbers significantly before the enumerators go door to door,” she said.

Enumerators will knock on doors to non-responding households in Chicago from July 30 through Oct. 31, according to Jeanine Beasley, a spokesperson for the U.S. Census Bureau’s Chicago Region.

The region’s director, Marilyn Sanders, said the bureau is in the process of hiring and training between 11,000 to 14,000 door knockers. She said the total number will depend on self-response rates in the coming weeks.

Lightfoot said the city is even enlisting the famous dreadhead cowboy, Adam Hollingsworth, to visit communities in the city with low response rates and help get the word out about the count.

“If you see the Census Cowboy coming to your neighborhood, that’s not a good thing,” Lightfoot said.

The census can be filled out online at my2020census.gov, by calling 844-330-2020, or by paper questionnaire.

Esther Yoon-Ji Kang is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her on Twitter @estheryjkang.