1. Introduction

The Orange County Census Atlas presents an analysis of community activation trends using self-response rates (SRR) from the 2020 Census. It is a public reference tool that completes the story of “what happened” in the 2020 Census self-response phase by showing how demographic groups responded across geographies.

This tool is built as a digital textbook filled with data tables, maps, graphs, analysis prompts, and interpretive text written for community-based outreach partners. Feel free to use the button on the upper right corner of the page to download the information as a PDF.

The Case for Self-Response Rates (SRR)

Self-Response Rates (SRR) reflect the percentage of all known housing units in a given geography (such as a county, city, census tract) that self-responded to the decennial census by completing the 2020 Census questionnaire online, by phone, or by mail between March and October 2020.

SRR are one of the most detailed and accurate indicators of a community’s propensity to respond to government-driven activation initiatives. Think of SRR as similar to voter engagement or turnout statistics, but with more granular geography, more details on population characteristics, and representing more of the population. Community-based organizations, funders, and government agencies can utilize SRR to prioritize resources and tailor outreach strategies to specific geographies or populations for other types of activation campaigns over the next decade.

SRR are also a strong indicator of the accuracy of the data collected from the decennial census.1 While the U.S. Census Bureau will ultimately account for 99% of all known housing units by the end of the self-response phase, how that 99% is achieved will vary by geography and population characteristic. SRR reflects only those who self-respond to the census, which is why most SRR are under 99%. Households that do not self-respond to the census must be accounted for via an in-person visit with a census taker, or if that is unsuccessful, through proxy administrative records or a calculation process called “imputation”.

Through this process, some people will be missed and others will be counted more than once (or included inappropriately).2 Two metrics are commonly used to analyze census accuracy: omissions (the number of people not counted in the census) and net undercount (when the number of people not counted is greater than the number of people counted more than once). Demographic groups and geographic areas with lower SRR are likely to have higher omission rates and net undercounts.3 Thus, these metrics are important to take into account when using census data to inform equity-focused efforts such as redistricting, public health research, voting, or economic recovery initiatives.


The Methodology sections present information on how the Orange County Census Atlas was created.

The Orange County and Cities sections present a demographic portrait and SRR analysis at the county level and for every city in Orange County.

The Race/Ethnicity and “Hard-to-Count” (HTC) Characteristics sections present a geographical analysis for every race/ethnic group and select HTC characteristics.

About the Project

The 2020 OC Census Atlas is a non-profit project of the Good Work Collaborative (GWC), a social impact consulting cooperative that provides tools and technical support for community-based initiatives and the partners that support them.

The project team consists of and was advised by experts on census data, GIS, and community outreach and activation who were deeply involved with 2020 census outreach and believed there was more that needed to be done before we could consider the story complete, and more importantly, accessible to the community.

The OC Census Atlas is independent from and not affiliated with any organization associated with the State of California Complete Count Office or the U.S. Census Bureau and was launched in September 2021. The analysis presented in the OC Census Atlas are those of the Good Work Collaborative. The project’s funders did not influence research methods, findings, interpretations, recommendations, or conclusions for the OC Census Atlas.

Team Members: Aminah Luqman, Emily Chan, Jim Miller, Kristin Chang, Stephanie B. Kim (project lead)


The OC Census Atlas was built with input and feedback from over 40 local partners in Orange County and made possible thanks to the charitable support of Sun Family Foundation, Orange County Community Foundation, Children and Families Commission of Orange County, as well as GWC’s project fiscal sponsor, Charitable Ventures of Orange County.

We recognize that the geography we refer to as “Orange County” and its surrounding areas is unceded territory of Indigenous peoples, whose ancestors and descendants are the original and current caretakers of the land, air, and water. We respectfully acknowledge the Ajachamen, Payómkawichum, Tongva and Kuumeyay people and our responsibility to them as we live on and around these homelands and engage in this work.

The OC Census Atlas team is grateful to Sarah Middleton for seeing what the Census Atlas could be and believing in its impact long before it became a reality. We also extend our deep gratitude to Gabriel Mitchell Gomez, Jason Yow, and Nicholas Garcia for their expert advice and technical support in building the project.

Special thanks to Alexander Caro, Ama Nyamekye, Amy Klein, Anne Im, Cathleen Otero, Christian Arana, Cindy Quezada, Curtis M. Gibbs, Darlene Moreno, Dorian Caal, Doua Thor, Evan Vahouny, James Woodson, Jason Lacsamana, Joanna Kong, Linda Nguyen, Madison Priest, Michele Silverthorn, Navin Moul, Paul Bonfanti, Quintilia Avila, Saul Viramontes, Stephania Ramirez, Stephanie Bertsch-Merbach, Tara Westman, Terrie Doizaki, Tiffany Alva, and Yesenia Hernandez for their time, thought partnership, feedback, and advice on the project. The OC Census Atlas is a stronger tool thanks to the time and expertise they generously shared with us during this journey.

Contact and Support

To support the OC Census Atlas and other projects by the Good Work Collaborative, join the mailing list here and make a tax-deductible donation here.

Visit www.ourgoodwork.co or contact info@ourgoodwork.co for more information.


O’Hare W.P. and Lee J.J.L. (2021) Who Responded in the 2020 Census? Variation in Tract-Level Self-Response Rates in the 2020 U.S. Census. Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality. https://www.georgetownpoverty.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/WhoRespondedinthe2020Census-20210412.pdf


O’Hare W.P. (2019) Who Is Missing? Undercounts and Omissions in the U.S. Census. In: Differential Undercounts in the U.S. Census. SpringerBriefs in Population Studies. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-10973-8_1


O’Hare W.P. (2019) Understanding Who Was Missed in the 2010 Census. Population Reference Bureau. https://www.prb.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/understanding-who-was-missed-in-the-2010-census.pdf